PR Across the Pond
The crinkle of the Monday paper, rumble of phone conversations and the aromas of tea and coffee brewing. These are the sensations that kicked off a week in London with Highwire’s sister agency Brands2Life.
The similarities between Highwire and Brands2Life are many. We are both independent agencies with a focus on storytelling, teams, education and results. My Monday morning started with a office huddle where the agency founders fired up the team for the week ahead. I also had the opportunity to witness the month’s Impact Coverage meeting, where teams across the agency shared successful campaigns for a chance to win a prize. My favorites, an app built for a client launch and a successful newsjack, which resulted in broadcast coverage for old data. This reminded me of how Highwire recognizes its teams with team dinner celebrations and “High Fives”—in which individual and team efforts are praised.
As for the differences, most noticeable was the time zone advantage. In San Francisco, mornings are a juggling act with team’s catching up on email and news while simultaneously trying to connect with reporters. While this also holds true in London, the time zone made their mornings feel a bit more luxurious. I found the team’s morning news dissection huddles to be particularly amazing. Communication also differed. In the U.S., with teams across various time zones, we rely heavily on Skype, Slack, HipChat and BlueJeans to connect. In London, with the entire team in one office interactions happen at desks instead of over screens.
No matter the market, PR is the same at its core. Everyone is focused on telling a compelling story. We all place a big focus on relationships and spend our time connecting with reporters. We also all rely heavily on the creative power of bringing minds together. Brainstorms are when the best ideas are created, from unique takes on survey data to interactive elements like pop-up events that give target audiences an experience. One great example, is the high-speed selfie campaign that recently won the Brands2Life team PR Week’s award for technology campaign of the year—congrats!
During my time in London, I was lucky enough to help one of the consumer teams think of new ideas for a campaign targeting business travelers. We spent an hour thinking about our own traveling experiences and putting together ideas to help the client standout—airport concierge anyone?
The biggest PR difference is the strategy behind campaigns. There seems to be a bigger integration between marketing, advertising and PR than in the States. I noticed teams developing advertising campaigns hand-in-hand with the PR narratives that would support them.
Press and Events
By far, my favorite part about London was the people! I loved getting to meet our agency partners, witnessing media relations rockstars in action, and connecting with local clients and press. For instance, attending OSCON showed me how truly awesome and powerful Raspberry Pi is thanks to IBM’s Node Red. Plus the technical session on microservices was surprisingly easy to follow.
I also got the opportunity to meet with Kadhim Shubber of The Financial Times (FT) and Ingrid Lunden of TechCrunch. Both are incredible reporters and people. With Kadhim, I discussed the impact of Brexit on the London Fintech market. The biggest concern for him is VC investment given how much money comes from outside investors. I also got some pitching advice: all FT employees around the world adhere to a noon UK deadline for stories. Remember that next time you before you pick up the phone.
As for Ingrid, her range of coverage is broad. She’s interested in following the money. In regards to AI, she wants to dive into the new cases that are highlighting its power. From a pitching perspective, she’s OK with follow-up emails as her inbox is always overflowing and mentioned to check in with her as she probably missed your first email.
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