Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Future of the PR Industry - The Apprentice's View

This is a blog post by Jessica Kirby - PR Apprentice, Cirkle
Arriving at the PRCA National Conference 2012, I have to admit I was quite apprehensive as I was not entirely sure what to expect from this well-regarded event. Walking through the doors of BAFTA, a sense of professionalism was immediately present and calmed my nerves; the PRCA could not have chosen a more elegant, smart venue. When the conference was underway, I became aware that it was much more than PRCA members meeting to share opinions, it was a visionary, forward-thinking presentation of what the industry could, and should be.
As an apprentice and having just entered this diverse, evolving industry, it was a fascinating insight attending the conference. The guest speakers were excellent with valuable points, and the audience were active in giving opinions generating engaging debates at times. There were intriguing points made by Jane Boardman, Talk PR and the key speaker, Peter Barron, Google. Something that remained with me was the idea of PR evolving from a craft to a true profession. It is apparent that the industry recognises that a change needs to take place for PR to finally be taken seriously and not disregarded due to its origins. It was suggested that a possible explanation for the lack of credibility of PR could be due to task assignment within agencies. The talent that PR people possess is not being applied to the right job and hence, not creating the best outcome. 
Something that interests me is the concept of the ‘digital native’. Being young, I have grown up immersed in the technological world, however, this does not mean that I, and the young people in the PR industry should be responsible for everything digital. There are plenty of people in the PR industry with extraordinary creative skills, there is nothing to stop agencies harnessing that and making it digital. It is all about the ability to apply – taking something on paper and making it accessible and utilising it in the digital world. I have found whilst working at Cirkle, that they are all in tune with digital and the potential it possesses, and that it is a combination of the ‘old school’ creative combined with the new ideas that results in such innovative campaigns. An interesting topic was the possibilities that can become a reality by using the free tools provided by Google, such as Google Fusion and Google Correlate enabling agencies to create visuals that engage their audience instead of numerical eye sores on a page.
A consistent theme was the call for talent in the industry. The PRCA has understood this and designed the apprenticeship which I am participating in, providing an opportunity for both the PR industry and young people. A new era of PR professionals is being created through the innovative training programme that the PRCA and Pearson in Practice have generated. The scheme enables me to have priceless experience in the workplace, whilst being taught the necessary tools, resulting in a nationally recognised qualification.

Being given the chance to attend the PRCA National Conference was truly an invaluable experience, being able to hear from experts in the industry. I felt that the topics being discussed were fundamental to the industry’s progression and ultimately will be the responsibility of the next generation of PR professionals. I feel that I have been filled with information that can be taken and applied to the work that I do everyday. The change in the industry is not about a sudden, jolting change but about a gradual progression. 
To find out more about the Public Relations Higher Apprenticeship scheme please go to

Friday, 23 November 2012

Stop, Collaborate and Listen.

How would you describe your relationship with your key customers and agencies? Is it a “partnership”? Are you “working together”? Is it a “win-win”? These are buzz words commonly touted around in our industry, but in my view infrequently are they actually true. For a business relationship to be successful it must be “collaborative” and that means it must be built on a shared goal and commitment to achieve it. I am a firm believer that collaboration fuels creativity, innovation and ultimately sales.

It came as no surprise to me that a key theme at the recent IGD Convenience Retailing 2012 Conference was the need for suppliers and retailers to work collaboratively. Why? Well the UK Convenience market is expected to deliver the biggest cash growth in the UK grocery market over the next five years. Everyone wants to get their slice of sales in this highly competitive battleground, but no-one can do it single handedly. A collaborative approach is what’s required to win through.

Someone who has seen success from collaboration is Paul Cheema, director of Malcolm Stores and a member of our Retailer Inner Cirkle Group in conjunction with the Association of Convenience Stores. He has developed many supplier partnerships in recent years and successfully grown sales. Speaking at the IGD, Paul said: “Working with a supplier and getting them into store can work for you both.”

Ian Martin, Head of Commercial, BWS and Frozen Foods at the Co-operative Group told delegates how collaboration is in their DNA but it is still not as collaborative as it would like to be. He said the Co-op wants joint business plans to be a two way street to get the right product in the right location and with fewer deep cut promotions.  Simon Twigger, Sainsbury’s Convenience Director called on suppliers to translate customer insights into their categories to make them work and for a greater focus on convenience within their teams.

More and more suppliers are now starting to wake up to the commercial importance of the Convenience sector and the importance of collaboration. The conference was full of examples of suppliers who are now step-changing their focus on Convenience and mobilising their troops to do battle. 

So in the age of retail collaboration what is the role of Trade Communications? Well it has an extremely important role to play, not just as a vehicle to showcase and promote collaboration, but actually as an enabler of collaboration. Work we’ve conceived and executed with clients including GSK, PepsiCo and Premier Foods over recent years has actually brought suppliers and retailers together to work collaboratively on joint projects. These have included: shop projects using category management principles and epos tracking, retailer reward and loyalty schemes, retailer case studies, workshops and round tables, category captaincy and retailer advocacy campaigns running across the spectrum of print, digital and face to face platforms.  And we’ve been able to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives both in terms of sales for both retailer and supplier but importantly in terms of the long term relationship and future collaboration. 

Most recently we’ve been working with Ferrero and Bestway on a “Working Together” editorial project in support of Ferrero’s 30th birthday promotion. The activity has helped successfully showcase the collaboration between supplier and wholesaler and the importance of using feature display to drive sales in depot.

Collaboration is not something that can just be simply be switched on and off - it’s a long term commitment with long term commercial benefits. So if collaboration isn’t already a key priority for your business then as Vanilla Ice once put it it’s time for you to: “Stop, Collaborate and Listen”.