Archives for posts with tag: PR

will pr for food

Saul O’Keeffe – PR Executive @Saul_Eskenzi

PR is a notoriously competitive and popular career path for graduates. There’s any number of ways people manage to get on the PR ladder, but as a graduate with little or no experience, it can seem a daunting task.

The reason I chose PR was because I knew how to write and research new subjects quickly, as well as being an easygoing person who doesn’t mind being out of their comfort zone on a regular basis. In short it was a career path where I’d get to test my skills to their limits, while having a real chance of career progression. But the difficult thing is getting that foot in the door, then through said door and on the first rung of that butter-coated ladder.

I had never worked in PR before – I’d never even worked in an office before. So how did I get a job in PR? Some of it was down to skill, some of it to luck and a large part of it was just patience and hard graft.

My experience comprised of charity projects with the Houses of Commons, a degree in political science and a few years working as a violin maker’s apprentice. Speaking to my rivals at job interviews, it was clear that competition was tough and knowing how to build a cello probably wasn’t going to impress someone who wanted me writing press releases and scoring media interviews for their clients.

So I did what everyone in my position did and applied to as many roles as I could – but saw no success. I then tried applying prospectively to companies where no positions were advertised, again without success. Consistently being told I had to do an internship first or hold a PR degree was somewhat disheartening. Then I got some excellent advice – build a strong relationship with a recruiter and be as open and honest with them as you can. Tell them your true likes and dislikes and where you sense your weaknesses lie. That way, they respect your honesty and know how to find the right position for you.

The recruiter then suggested I look at tech PR. It fitted my goals as the industry moves fast, requires consistent effort and creativity and enables me to learn about an area where I had little working knowledge before. It felt like the perfect challenge for someone looking to cut their teeth in PR. I’d had a couple of interviews by this stage and was starting to learn what PR directors are looking for in their teams. It was not long after this conversation I was off to my first tech PR interview – and luckily for me it was at a company where I felt instantly at home!

So my path from university to Eskenzi was hardly a doddle, with some disappointments along the way and interviews that were a complete waste of my time. There were 3 main lessons I learned on my journey into PR:

  1. Make sure you’re applying for PR in the sector that’s best for you – play to your strengths and ask for career advice about where you need to be.
  2. Blanket applications do not work – trust me. Be focused and targeted rather than throwing the whole pot of spaghetti at the wall.
  3. Do not be daunted by rejection or failure – it is all part of the learning experience and it is something to be relished rather than regretted.

So good luck in your applications! One final thing: do not feel pressured into working for free just to get “experience” – experience doesn’t pay the rent! If you work for free, you’re conceding your time isn’t worth any money, which is just not true. Right?

 

Actually, that isn’t the question, it’s the challenge

While some bay for the death knell to sound, I still firmly advocate that the press release has its place in the communications portfolio –but only if it’s done well.

The problem is that, in my experience, repeatedly it’s not! tips and hints

To be valuable the press release has to be carefully constructed. To do that takes a perfect blend of elements. Get it wrong and your prose is unlikely to see the light of day but, get it right, and you’ll generate interest and ultimately coverage.

With that in mind, here’s my tips for effective press release writing:

Grab the attention: The headline, and subject line if sending via email – which we all do, are the most important things to get right when writing a press release. You should use no more than 10 words that scream how interesting your release is to the recipient.

Journalists have hundreds of press releases flooding their mailboxes every day – or hour in some cases! Your release has to shine out against all the other dross. But that doesn’t mean you should be flippant, nor gimmicky – the journalist has to understand that a) it is a press release, b) what the release is about, and c) deem it relevant, if they’re going to open your message and read on.

Assuming you’ve passed this first hurdle, your opening sentence too has to keep the reader’s attention if the remainder of the release is going to be read. The golden rule here is that the opening sentence summarises what’s in the rest of the release, in less than 20 words, and reads like the opening line of a news report. Simple really – actually, that’s quite a skill.

It has to be newsworthy : There is absolutely no point writing a press release if you don’t have any news. Regardless of the demands a client, or even account manager, may make – if the subject isn’t genuinely new, interesting, innovative or surprising then a press release is not the best tactic. Instead, either combine this announcement with something that is newsworthy, or use a different PR tool.

Find your hook: Every editor needs a hook to pin your story around.  The best press releases will include this – ideally in the opening paragraph. For example, is a journalist interested in Company A’s new whitepaper? I’d wager not. But, if Company A has uncovered a previously unknown vulnerability in Software X and has published a paper on its research – then the hook is the vulnerability with the whitepaper referenced.

The Five W’s: In the opening paragraph it’s imperative that you cover the five W’s – the who, what, where, when and why that this release details. If you can get this into the opening sentence then perhaps you should consider a career as a news editor 🙂

Don’t waffle: While it might be tempting to put everything you know on the subject into a press release, don’t! The ideal length is one A4 side – approximately 400 words, or four paragraphs. Any more and you’re not writing a press release, you’re writing an article. Pick up any newspaper and look at the news section – short and snappy is the typical style and that’s what your release should emulate. If the journalist is interested, and needs more information, then they’ll ask for it.

Include a quote: And don’t say ‘we’re delighted/excited/pleased or thrilled ….’ of course you are but that’s not insightful. I also recommend that you read a quote out loud – if it sounds like you’re reading then it’s not a quote – you’re aiming for something that sounds natural and flows easily.

Complete the package with an image: Publications are screaming out for images to brighten up their pages so include one. Make sure, if you’re approaching a print publication, that the resolution is high enough, and try to make it interesting – a head shot of a spokesperson is not going to cut the mustard.

However, don’t attach the file to your message as this will annoy journalists struggling to keep their mailboxes a manageable size. Instead, a simple ‘Notes to Editor’ at the end of the release stating its availability will suffice. While on the subject of notes, you could include additional background material for the release in this section.

Include your details: There is nothing more frustrating to an editor, who’s fast approaching a print deadline and needs to verify a fact in a story, if they can’t immediately reach you. Include all the ways you can be reached, and that includes out of hours numbers.

One Size won’t fit all: So, you’ve got the lot – the interesting news hook, eye catching headline, and perfect quote. While that’s 95% of the secret formula, the bit that’s missing is the tailoring for each publication on your list. Take the time to write to each contact individually, detailing why the release is relevant to the publication’s audience, and highlighting the salient points. Again, keep it succinct and use bullets if it helps.

Get it proof read: There is nothing more frustrating then something littered with typos – it’s unprofessional and some journalists claim that they will delete releases with spelling errors and grammatical mistakes without reading them. get-it

So there you go, my top tips to effective press release writing.   logo-date+slogan(banner)

So Neil and I have returned after two blissful months in San Francisco with numerous trips down to Silicon Valley to see our clients, potential clients, clients-come-friends and analysts.  It was a great trip and very worthwhile and incredibly different to working in London.  Most strange was the realisation that most Californians are health freaks, with a crazy number getting up at 5am to train, eat healthily and then go to bed at 9.30 – great for us who seemed to only want to go out to eat at about 8.30 and rebel against the lycra!

We also met some cool, chilled out folks (not what we were expecting in the Valley)  who surprised us  – as they really were living the life – our girls did an internship at the hippest ad agency in San Francisco Hub Strategy (check them out) and the owner would disappear every lunchtime for 2 hours – not to go down the boozer, but to surf under the Golden Gate Bridge!

There is also this joke that most San Franciscans would rather sell their car rather than give up eating out – and that really is true – the restaurants were superb and it became a daily ritual to find a better restaurant than the one the previous night – so if you need any recommendations you know where to come.

Surprisingly we thought all the IT security stuff was happening in the Valley, but San Francisco is increasingly becoming an IT hub – with these really trendy open planned offices – with mountains of free food, snacks and drinks.  One office had an entire wall filled with every whisky and spirit you could imagine with trays and trays of sushi, chocolate, cakes, sandwiches – all very exciting – but I was rather sceptical about the whole concept behind it – maybe I’m just really cynical!

On the work front it was interesting – in the first week we had 9 meetings cancelled on us, either over the phone or in person – so after thinking it must be something to do with us, we asked around and apparently the Californians are renowned for cancelling on meetings if something more urgent comes up – which it frequently does right – flaky, really flaky (not my wording) but theirs – it’s how they describe their own Californian behaviour.  Here we’d just say it’s “not very British” – but after a while you just sort of accept it and go with the flow.

As for Eskenzi in the US – we’re growing!  We now have 3 clients in the US, all of whom had started using us in the UK first, then expanded to using us in France and Germany and now in the US as we become their global agency.   We have a team on the East and West coast who are providing analyst and press relations and it’s an area we hope to grow as our client base grows – and clearly to enable this growth it’s going to mean many more wonderful days in San Francisco to oversee its success!!!  Rock on Eskenzi San Francisco.

 

– Yvonne

angelina_jolie_amy_pascal_mt_141212_16x9_992

 

Whether you’re interested in information security or tabloid gossip, you’re likely to have heard about the recent Sony hack. Hacker group Guardians Of Peace (GOP) have revelled in taking responsibility for the hack, which has uncovered personal details of clients and staff, internal email communications and financial details galore. The revelations have been making daily news for nearly three weeks now; and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon, with GOP warning Sony that there will be more leaks in time for Christmas.

The technical details of the hack are still unclear, as is the attribution of and reasoning behind the attack, despite a lot of accusations. As a reader though, the news is in the leaks. Internal emails slating very high profile stars, the wage discrepancies between male and female actors and even some casual racism are just a few of the surprises the GOP have served up for us to feast our eyes on. Yummy.

It has already been said that this hack makes for a PR disaster for Sony. As with any high profile hack, the element of trust in said company’s systems and operations is left in the balance. In this case, as a production company with relatively limited direct customer-interaction, you could argue that this could be overcome in time. However, the seemingly never ending list of moral wrong-doings are tough to shake off. Sony has quite a list going so far – an internal culture of racism, sexism and downright rudeness are claims that can be levelled against the organisation with some conviction.

Whilst no one can (or should) blame a company for being hacked and humiliated as a result, they can comment on the actions they choose to take afterwards. Sony had kept a relatively consistent line of ‘no comment’ besides from the odd apology and a statement from Kevin Mandia, who is now looking after their security systems. Other than that, things had been kept rather quiet from the Sony side.

This was until 15th December, when Brian Krebs detailed a letter he received from Sony lawyers demanding that he “cease publishing detailed stories about the company’s recent hacking and delete any company data collected in the process of reporting on the breach.” Analysis of the legal implications of this from Krebs’ own blog and The Washington Post suggest that publication of very specific data from the Sony hack might lead to a successful lawsuit; but really, the company doesn’t have a leg to stand on in demanding that reporters do not report on the hack.

It is an interesting approach to take, not least because it is the most literal interpretation of ‘shoot the messenger’ that I have ever seen. Aggressive threats to reporters doesn’t sound comfortable even when it is 100% legally sound. As this has come from their legal team, one can only assume (and hope) that the PR team had no say in this latest development.

There are a few good reasons as to why this violates traditional rules of crisis communications, with the obvious few being:

  1. Journalists are not your enemy or your colleague. As the company that is sometimes centre to the content of their stories, you are there to be an informative, open and reliable source of information, from a safe distance. There needs to be acceptance that journalists have ultimate editorial control and you are there simply to supply content that helps them create the most informative and balanced version of that story as much as you possibly can. The more closed off and aggressive you are, the more creative license you give them. In this case, sticking to Freedom of Press rules and regulations is the job of the reporter, their editors and publishers.
  2. Don’t try to deny or hide what cannot be denied or hidden. This mistake can sometimes be made as a pre-emptive action (as in this case with Sony) but it will not work. Being honest will avoid future crisis because the truth always comes out eventually. Acknowledging your mistakes and faults will increase trust and respect in your company and brand. People are generally more willing to forgive and forget an error in judgement or action, than they are to forgive a lie.
  3. Consider all your audiences in your line of communication. Any statement or treatment you make to press, you are also making to your enemies, employees and customers. Does an aggressive statement threatening legal action increase trust and respect from any of the three parties mentioned? I’m not so sure.

It is hard to say what the best line of practice would be for a company like Sony in its current situation. The revelations have crossed a line from corporate to very personal and these require different managerial tactics. However, basic rules of acknowledgment, honesty and information-sharing could still be applied. Whilst these disclosures are potentially damaging and certainly interesting, they are not all-too surprising. Wage discrepancies between men and women is a well-known fact by now and the film industry has been revealed before to be brutal and superficial. Maybe a well thought out piece from someone at Sony addressing these issues that exist within their own industry could be a considered next step. Once they’re readily available, more information on how this happened to them could remove some of the question marks that still exist.

Of course Sony is angry and embarrassed that this has happened and it is unforgiveable that the hackers have leaked private information on employees, actors.  But the press are not the villain here and should be given a little more credit as, though they might report on the fact that it has happened, they are yet to report any specific details that might endanger those individuals.  Instead, Sony is opting to shoot the messenger in a weak attempt to save face. As more revelations appear, it will certainly be interesting not only to see the contents of the hack but also to see how Sony continues to handle it from a technical, business and PR perspective.

 

– Katie

To mark my three month anniversary working at Eskenzi PR, I thought why not write a blog about my experiences (I was not asked to do this at all)

ISK-ISPC072007 - © - inspirestock

28th of August – As I entered the doors to the open planned and beautifully decorated office I had a good feeling about this place, like the warm feeling you get when you go to a family members on Christmas day. I was immediately drawn to the endless amounts of tea, coffee and biscuits, so what’s not to like? As the new girl in the office, with little experience in IT Security and PR, I was slightly nervous, like a new kid at school. However, I was warmly welcomed and made to feel like part of the family. Most importantly, I did not feel intimidated or ashamed to ask the most basic of questions. Most PR firms have horrid reputations; bitchy colleagues, endless hours and treated worse than intern making tea. Eskenzi couldn’t be any further away from this. Everyone helps one another, gratitude is always present and there’s a continuous array of mcvities biscuits. IT Security is a fast paced and exciting environment, no two days are the same here, I am always learning and all of my clients are very cooperative and informative. I find that I am speaking about the latest hacks and data breaches with my friends who are clearly impressed and confused. I have now been given the responsibility of organising CISO lunches, so no pressure then!  I’m sorry for those of you that have decided to read this expecting me to complain, moan and reveal juicy gossip but I really am enjoying my job. Hopefully my next blog will be similar and I will be telling you what a success the CISO lunch was! I would like to wish the best of luck to Yvonne and Neil who are off to America- not jealous at all.

Me at my desk working extremely hard.

work 2

It’s happened – an editor is interested in receiving an article from you. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.

Write something interesting, engaging and unbiased, and he’ll publish your work – get it wrong and your words will be filed in the ‘trash can’.

With that in mind, here’s what our experience of ghost-writing copy has taught us:

 

1) Stick to the Script

A synopsis has probably already been written to secure the placement, so it stands to reason that the finished article follows this outline. Many of you reading this will think that’s ‘stating the bleeding obvious’ but I’ve read enough articles over the years that don’t even have a passing resemblance to the pitch that means it’s worth repeating!

Similarly, if the Editor has offered a word-count, don’t ignore it. While no-one expects you to be bang-on 800 words, there is usually only a 10% leeway either side. Again, experience tells me there will be someone reading this who will have offered a 1,000 word prose for a 500 word placement!

It’s also worth reiterating that deadlines aren’t plucked out of the sky. Ideally stick to the Editor’s timeframe but, if something comes up and you’re going to need more time, ask for it as early as possible. There’s nothing more irritating then being told at the last minute something won’t be ready on time. Actually there is – not telling someone and waiting for them to find out for themselves!

 

2) Plan Your Piece

Before you put pen to paper (or start typing) scope out what you want to include in your article – remember, every good article has a beginning (introduce the theme or argument of the article) a middle (the issue or argument) and an end (a conclusion, summarising the key take-away and ideally a call to action).

It also helps the natural flow of the piece if there’s a progression through each element being covered. As illustration – there is a problem; this is what happens if you ignore it; and this is what you can do to stop it being a problem.

Remember, editors – and so by association readers, love statistics – but they’re useless if you don’t reference whose research it is. After all, anyone can claim that eight out of 10 cats like something – but if you don’t know who said it, how do you know it’s true.  Similarly, if it’s an independent study or a respected individual, it will carry more weight than a popular cat food vendor’s claims.  That doesn’t mean as a vendor your research is worthless – you just need to make the case for why it shouldn’t be ignored. And sample size is king – if we return to cats who like fish, if you offer 10 cats the choice or 1,000 which sample is likely to yield the better results?

While on this point, most publications like text to include hyperlinks to external reports, quotes or other material – or include these details as a footnote. If in doubt, check with the publication to determine its preference.

 

3) Don’t Speak Geek

The IT sector, and security particularly, is full of acronyms and phrases that get Sheldon Cooper hot under the collar (you know – the tall one from the Big Bang Theory.)

While you might understand why limiting “buffer overflows, HTTP header vulnerabilities, binary or non-ASCII character injections, and exploits such as SQL injection, XSS, and worm attacks” is important, there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t.

Similarly, don’t be condescending.

If you’re unsure, research other articles published by the title to determine the right technical tone to take. If in doubt, ask – that’s what account managers are for.

 

4) Offer Practical Advice

Lots of the Editors we speak with like practical articles that include top tips, best practice and step-by-step guides – i.e. the five things that, if done, will help solve an issue, secure a network, or even write a good article!

Be clear in what you’re asking the reader to do and don’t assume prior knowledge, even of simple tasks. If there’s an order, or priority, label it as such. Include warnings of what not to do, things that can go wrong or even consequences of not following protocol correctly. And link to additional reading or supporting material where further help and assistance can be obtained.

 

5) Don’t be Biased

This is the golden rule of ‘editorial.’ While it’s tempting to talk about your product and how it perfectly addresses the challenge end-users face, this is the most common reason that an article is spiked (that’s publishing speak for ‘binned, canned, or filed under trash.’)

It’s okay to talk about how a technology or solution addresses an issue, as part of a wider balanced article – just don’t make it the only focus for your piece, definitely don’t lift the text from your datasheets, and never ever name it.

 

Hopefully that helps next time you’re asked to produce an article.

Happy writing.

quality v quantity blog

Carpet bomb emails are something the PR industry is unfortunately, renowned for. It is hard to strike a balance – you want to get your clients’ news out there in the most efficient way possible, so email tends to be the answer. But when you have a lot of clients in the same space, that can add up to a lot of emails.

Our clients sometimes want to comment on the same things and some even have offerings that overlap.  This is often a good thing, because it means that we can give journalists richer content on the same topic. One client might have one opinion on a certain topic whilst another might have another view – so we can still pitch both to the press, creating a nice story for the journalist plus coverage for 2 or more clients at once. It also means that we have communicate and coordinate as a whole agency as to what news we’re sending out to whom and more importantly, when we’re sending it out. By default, it encourages teamwork.

We were delighted to receive the following note from a journalist we work quite closely with:

“Incidentally, you guys are brilliant. One of the most aggressive PR agencies I deal with when it comes to sending out e-mails but there is useful stuff in it so I don’t mind at all. Probably the best PR outfit I deal with, to be honest.”

So there you have it – you can have both high quality AND quantity – as long as you’re keeping content relevant to your audience.

 

 

yvonne blo

 

As I write this blog I can’t quite believe that for every week in the past 8 weeks Eskenzi has won a new client. However, as my mother just told me “I hope you haven’t mentioned this to anyone as you’ll sound ever so boastful!”  Now isn’t that so typically English and why can’t I shout from the roof tops about this achievement , it’s taken almost 20 years to get here and we are in PR after all, so who else is going to blow our trumpet if we don’t do it for ourselves!

It’s a weird old world running a PR business and I suppose for Neil and myself this sudden growth comes down to a change in attitude and circumstance. After 17 years of happily running a small boutique agency from our home, with 8 people trekking through our house every day it was our kids who finally suggested that it was time to move out and “leave home”.  Buying our huge warehouse in Barnet and renovating it before moving in exactly this same week last year I suppose was the turning point for our growth.  It’s given us 2,500sq ft of light, flexible creative space which we’ve been able to fill with the most wonderful people – now our staff can come and go like they never could when we worked from home plus we can employ interns, apprentices and really top notch people who can cut the mustard as we have the space to accommodate them.

Leaving the Infosecurity account was also one of the best things we’ve ever done after 17 long years of managing the PR – gosh that’s been emancipating.  It meant for the first time this year Infosec was a joy – without the burden of trying to get 300 press into the press office and trying to appease 350 exhibitors, not to mention Reed themselves.  Instead we opted to do our own PR around the show including organising 145 press and analyst interviews for our clients, arrange a best practices workshop for the heads of marketing for all our clients, host a speed dating press lunch for 25 press and organise an Eskenzi party for 100 people including analysts, press, CISOs, bloggers and CEOs on the first night! Oh and I almost forgot the IT security guru headed by the wonderful Dan Raywood, also meant taking numerous videos, blogs, write copy and sponsor B-sides all during Infosecurity too!

Reflecting on the last year it’s been the best ever and I really can’t thank the most wonderful team we’ve ever had for making it so. That success is also most definitely down to the type of clients that we have on board all of which are dynamic, fun, innovative and interesting.  PR is very much a two way process so we choose our clients carefully as much as it takes them to choose us – so the 8 most recent clients to Eskenzi we welcome you on board and very much look forward to working with you and building your brands not only in the UK but for many in Germany, France and even in the US – welcome Alert Logic, Bromium, ESET, Pirean, Proofpoint, RedSeal, Sestus, Silent Circle.  So enough trumpet blowing – the reality is it’s time to get down to some real work!

panel_heart

With information security making headline news more than ever before, we have seen an increase in quantity and quality of coverage for our clients. With over 1200 clippings this quarter (and counting) publications we have featured in include:

  • Reuters
  • The Guardian
  • The FT
  • BBC
  • The Daily Mail
  • The Observer
  • The Telegraph
  • The Register
  • SC Magazine

It’s safe to say it’s an exciting time to be in the industry – and we’re looking forward to what the next quarter brings!

Chemistry

In the next few weeks I’ll be blogging about how to go about finding the right PR agency for you. I’ve been running Eskenzi PR for 18 years and I’d say good PR is all about Chemistry. It’s a bit like going on a first date – when you meet the person sitting opposite you and look into their eyes you either know it’s going to work or you don’t! Is there a connection and does it feel right? Is there a nice spark when you talk to these guys? Do you fire off each other? If it feels right in your gut and the chemistry is working then I’d say the agency could be the right one for you.

However, don’t make your decision based on the chemistry being right between you and the directors of the company ask to meet the entire team. After all how often are you going to deal with the directors – meet the account manager and account executives, go into their offices and spend some time with them – see if there is a buzz about their place. Are the team happy? Do they have time to spend with you – check they’re not stressed out working on too many accounts!

The golden rule is in our office is that no one works on more than 4 accounts – check this out when you talk to the account manager – do they look tired and worn out? If so walk away – you want to be a big fish in a small pond – that’s the reason why we always recommend working with smaller, specialised agencies because they have fewer clients and everyone really matters.

When at the pitching stage ask the all important question about how long the agency retains their clients. If it’s around a year to 18 months don’t touch them. I’d be very interested in why they’ve lost their clients. At Eskenzi we retain our clients for an average of 7 years, most of our clients leave us because they’ve been acquired – that’s our job done – it’s what most companies in our sector are seeking to achieve. If a client only stays for a year or two it’s not a good sign.

To check that the agency have happy and satisfied clients ask if you can contact their clients and make sure it’s you who chooses who the clients are you speak to, not the ones the agency recommend you speak to as they are likely to direct you to only their happy clients not the disgruntled or dissatisfied ones.

To make sure that you instinct is right and the chemistry is there you can ask for a three month trial contract, which means you’re not locked into a long term agreement and it gives both parties time to try out the working relationship. Three months is the perfect time to find out whether the agency are good – you should be getting coverage and interviews with the press within the first couple of weeks and oodles of coverage within the three month trial period. If the coverage isn’t coming in within this time period then you know it won’t happen after this time period.

So in essence choosing an agency is no different to any relationship – you’ve got to like the people you’re working with, that way the ideas and energy will flow. Also make sure you do your research on the agency to ensure they are the right fit for you. Quiz the staff to make sure they are knowledgeable about your subject and space and are energised by your products and services. Finally make sure they are not over-stretched and stressed out. Remember it’s two sided as all good relationships are and communicating regularly is at the heart of every great partnership! So go with your instinct and if you feel the chemistry is right it probably is!