Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Happy 5th freelance birthday to me

elliot age 11
A lot can happen in five years.

Five years ago my 11 year old little cutey baked cakes and gave freely of his cuddles and enthusiasm. Five years on and my ‘little’ cutey looks down on me in disdain while raiding my fridge and giving freely of his criticism. He loves me really - it’s just a phase right?

And so too has the freelance life grown up. On the client side we have really found our niche now – tech startups, the way we work combined with our business model make us a great fit for the nimble and ambitious startup. None of us have the appetite for long meetings or long emails – we all just want to get stuff done! Most recently our client work was short-listed for an award, for a PR campaign we ran in the public sector. And I confess it feels good to be ranked up there alongside the more established agencies.
elliot, coming up for 16

It’s gone from being just me to a tight little collective of PR Pros, Analyst relations peeps, designers, creatives and copywriters, working together and playing to our strengths.

But it’s grown bigger in all the right ways, while holding onto the core freelance premise, which is no premises at all! 


Proud to say CommsCrowd HQ is still my former dining room and therefore we still have no need for a receptionist, an IT team, an office manager, an HR team or an accounts department. Just outlook, dropbox, google docs, and some wicked spreadsheets (a personal forte). The only expansion our'office' has seen is the addition of another dog.

Meet Moby's PA, Tullah
In addition to the bulking up of expertise, the other fantastic side of forming the freelance collective is that it offers the opportunity for each of us to develop outside of the world of comms. Whether it’s renovating a 300 year old cottage, bagging munros or learning to surf.

I’ve really got into the talent development element of PR and I’m now an associate lecturer for Westminster University and The London College of Communication. College days are the best days, I get an enormous amount of satisfaction nurturing the next generation of young ones and helping them prepare for the world of work.

And when you feel supported by a brilliant team; when you genuinely warm to your clients and get a kick out of every campaign that delivers; when your pockets are over flowing with psychic income and you’re still learning and still evolving - well then there’s no reason to stop. Here’s to the next five years!

If you want to read of how the other years went you may enjoy these posts too:

year 4
year 3
year 2
year 1
month 1

















Sunday, 17 January 2016

Tips for PR Internship Interviews

As well as running The Comms Crowd I am an associate lecturer in PR at several universities, my speciality subject is ‘employability’. Just before Christmas the module on which I was working culminated in mock interviews for the entire class. The 40 odd students had just ten minutes each to make their mark. 

I am an experienced, strategic team leader
 with excellent creative and interpersonal skills,
as my week in the scouts shows... 

And this is what got me, it’s not till you interview 40 potential interns back to back do you realise how important it is to make a mark and stand out, for the right reasons.
Below my top ten tips for delivering a compelling interview:

1) Dress up not down, you’re a student, I know what students look like, show me what you look like as a young professional, help  me imagine you in my world. Lads put on a suit, girls tie back the hair, easy on the make-up, everybody make sure the shoes compliment the look and are clean, Oh and take your coat off!

2) Bring in a portfolio and refer to it.Clips, references, college work, certificates etc.

3) Don’t be worried about nerves, we expect you to be nervous and can see through them, just focus on coherent answers that stack up.

4) Be able to answer the question ‘what do we get if we hire you?’ in three word that are true to the core of you. Even if you’re not asked it, have a handle on your personal brand, what it is, what you stand for.

5) If you are studying PR be able to talk about the industry, our issues, our successes, where we are heading, your PR super hero etc.

6) Don’t offer up a single adjective unless you have a story that backs it up. Don't fell obliged to provide us with skills or qualities that you are unlikely to have at this early stage of your career. If we're looking for a new CEO we would have advertised for one.

7) Be comfortable with your more humble achievements. The most convincing candidates where those that talked about everyday PR duties, how tricky it was to get coverage when there was no news, to create 10 tweets a day for a fish and chip shop, to get journalists to talk to you - at least that way we know you know what you are letting yourself in for.

8) Don’t be too eager to please, ‘I don’t care where I work who I work for what I do’ isn’t actually that compelling. Moderate your desire to learn with a view of where you'd like to end up.

9) Be able to be reflective, think about things that have not gone well that were actually down to you not someone else. Why was that, and what did you learn from it? The ability to demonstrate you can own and learn from mistakes is a key character strength not weakness.



10) Have a story lined up that lets us see the passion in you the one that lights you up! It doesn't have to be work related, just something where we can see your natural energy and pride.

Good luck, and enjoy the experience!


Need more tips on PR internships? These posts might be useful:






Sunday, 13 December 2015

Do Industry Analysts actually know more than you, and what if they don't?


Courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of The Comms Crowd and our resident analyst relations guru - we look at if it's about what you know or who you know...

Mate I'm telling you,
Your go-to-market strategy is all wrong...
When engaging with industry analysts, tech vendors and end users ALWAYS want to know what value they add and whether they can actually provide guidance to help them make crucial strategic decisions.

For some people, the fundamental reason they engage with analysts is to get advice about how to position themselves better (vendors) or which vendor technologies to consider (end users) because they genuinely can’t do so themselves and feel that analysts know more about certain aspects of the industry than they do.

When everything matches - i.e. connection with the right analyst, finding the best time to engage with them during the product life cycle or decision-making process, execution as advised, and progress reviews – we’re all happy and feel the whole process was worth it.

All this depends on:

1. The analyst adding to the knowledge that didn’t exist within the organisation, or did exist but no-one had a good idea how best to utilise it strategically;

2. The analyst using their extensive knowledge of various technologies, implementations and case studies to provide impartial advice and pro-actively guide their clients.

Now, occasionally, we hear “I definitely know more about this industry than XYZ analyst, what value will they really provide? I will be the one educating them!”

Time is precious and it is understandable if someone doesn’t want to waste time talking to analyst they don’t feel are relevant to them. What people should always remember is that it works the other way round as well. Analysts don’t want to talk to people that are not relevant to their research areas or can’t provide valuable information they can use to help advise their own clients.

So if an analyst wants to speak to you, they may not necessarily know more about the industry than you do but they do want to know more about your company, technology, services, GTM strategy, etc.

Fundamentally, you need to see this as an education process. Though you may know what you are doing, you need to get the message out. So, educate the analysts and let them educate the market / tell people about the value you provide.

For a normal briefing, the question to ask is “what gaps in the analyst’s knowledge exist that I need to fill in?” instead of “does this analyst know more than me?”

For consulting / inquiry-type engagements, you can think differently. You want to make sure the analyst you talk to is providing you with the necessary advice related to messaging, market positioning, technology development, etc. What you are looking for is an independent opinion which, given the opportunities analysts have to talk to end users (about deployments) and vendors (about technology solutions), allows them to give actionable advice that you can use.

Sometimes, all they can do is validate what you already know or do. But it is important to have that validation so you don’t get caught up navel gazing. A reality check is always good.

So, do analysts always know more about an industry than you do? No they don’t! But by carefully identifying and approaching the right analysts, you can engage with those (paid or not) that are driving conversations or have an impact on end user technology selection because someone somewhere finds their output valuable enough to engage with them.

Their independence, means people will be more open to them than to you, is something to take advantage of. So don’t ignore the newer / younger analysts – they could be your biggest advocates in years to come.