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Smoketober October 8, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, In the news, Uncategorized.
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smoking

The writer Michael Pollan, in his polemic against the hijacking of nutrition by food marketers, advises readers to avoid all foods which are sold with health claims. (Sugar and corn syrup loaded products sold to the gullible as an essential part of you five a day). We can now add months to that as well.

I’ve smoked now for 20 years and I was on the verge of giving up. Leaflets have been seized and stored in kitchen drawers, hypnotists Googled and I even know that Raynes Park is the location of nearest Alan Carr quit group. The latter, I hasten to add is named after the ex-smoker who developed the one-day programme, not a lobby to get the comedian Alan Carr into retirement although I concede I’d eagerly sign-up to that for a fortnight and give up smoking to make it happen.

I was on the cusp, the verge, teetering so close to the edge of giving up smoking that any further I’d be in free fall. I don’t want to be a smoker all my life. It’s bad for you and I’ve ridden my luck. This will be for the good of my health. Yet, there are other causes worth sacrificing for and that is the state of the nation and respect for the English language.

If there is anything more likely to send me sprinting to the grey screen kiosk that passes for a tobacco stand gasping for air, it is being asked if I am planning to give up smoking for Stoptober. The first time of asking I hadn’t the vaguest what they were talking about and had to have the concept explained to me. Give up? For what? They’ve changed the name of October to Stopober so I will stop smoking? Not a fucking chance. I will spark up, light pyres of Marlboro Lights atop Ben Nevis and the Brecon Beacons and do whatever it takes to avoid yet another absurd soundbite movement with a creative developed by some slice in Shoreditch straight off his crack pipe.

The malignant assault on the senses started some time ago. First there was TV advertisement featuring a giant swollen red inflatable that looks like a sort of benign alcoholic’s nose with STOP written on the side of it. The STOP inflatable was rolled around a field, hugged, squeezed, photographed by some youths on their smart phones in a shopping centre, fingered by a fishmonger, cropped up in a call centre and then inexplicably appeared on a boat going out to sea, where, in any ideal world it would be punctured and sent to the sea bed with lead weights. Such wishful thinking.

This morning it wasn’t possible to listen to three John Cooper Clarke tracks in a row on Spotify without being ironically interrupted by an ad featuring a cheery array of folk with raised regional dialects (it’s the one nation coming together) talking about how much they were looking forward to giving up. They were giving up for their partner or their kids.

Well, I just surveyed my current surroundings and all I can see is Aggy, my Polish cleaner and a QPR season ticket. Hardly the call to action I was hoping for. Profound as she is with the marigolds, I don’t see a future with Aggy and  the latter is nothing but a further cause of self-harm. Believe me, if that STOP bubble had appeared outside the ground after the opening day 5-0 defeat against Swansea, people wouldn’t have been hugging it. Mind you, it could’ve done a job for us in goal.

The Department of Health marketing team clearly hadn’t factored in those of us who live alone, use South West Trains and support a team without a win all season and now facing a two-week international break prior to the next 90 minute shambles. But what we also have to face is people asking us if we have given up for Stoptober even with evidence to the contrary – a hangdog expression with a fag hanging out of one’s mouth – to suggest that no, I have not.

If all goes to plan Stoptober will be a fixture every year with increasing momentum, additional prods and prompts and little chance of escape. Put your house on the Military Wives Choir getting to number 1 with an awareness raising Stoptober cover of Smoke On The Water this time next year. Don’t forget we are less than 25 days away from the start of Movember! The possiblity that we’ll be invited the chance to do nothing to save the Gregorian calendar is ebbing with every bright spark with a marketing budget. By the end of the decade we’ll have to do something every month for something else: grow our toenails to fight piles, sing for a cyst or braid our pubic hair to replenish cod stocks.  We may be a healthier nation for such causes, but we become more irritating company for it during the cocktail hour.

So giving up smoking will have to wait for at least another month. Probably November and, for that one month, I can assure you, I shall be shaving every day.

Crushed backs and other celebrations May 12, 2012

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I was fine until about half-an-hour ago but now I’m like Martin Sheen in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now. Alone with absolutely nothing on TV, pacing despite being declared medically unfit to stand, swigging a cheap rose I’d sniffily declared not to my taste at 6pm. In fifteen hours time Stoke kick-off against Bolton, a unlikely, but still very possible win for the latter and QPR are relegated. Unless QPR can get a point away at Man City. And that’s not going to happen.

Things couldn’t be worse: following medical advice I have spent the last two days lying flat in bed after having my spine crushed by a publican when Djibril Cissse scored a winner in our last Rangers game. Waiting months for a weekend of sunshine only to be told by the doctor to lie down indoors. And I never in my life believed my happiness would be relative to something that was happening in Stoke.

To compound matters I may just recover the ability to sit upright and walk just in time to watch the conclusion on television, sitting within arms reach of the publican, Lee Blewett in his pub The Bramley Inn.

In the past week the Man City – QPR game has become a matter of national debate. There is only one voice I’ve heard that entire time who has openly declared, with no hint of irony, they believe QPR will win: Lee Blewett.

It’s the kind of blind faith that has seen him travel all over the country full of vim only to witness in nine outings nine straight defeats and one solitary goal (compared to Chelsea’s six), so god knows what odds he is operating on for such a prediction, but despite all this evidence to the contrary, he will yet again experience the crushing disappointment that comes with confronting the odds with his hand on his crotch.

The tragic thing is this fixture and the need for Bolton not to win at Stoke coincides with the birthday party he’d organised for his partner.  Curious to how this would pan out I asked what the plans relating to football tomorrow, receiving the reply: “I am going to get her twatted tonight. Tomorrow is all about the footy’. Not a line I imagine we’ve seen oft used in the vaults of Mills & Boon.

Tomorrow one of us is going to need to watch the scores come in in a cage. I certainly don’t want him charging at me like an undersexed gorilla if Stoke or, god forbid, QPR score. The physio was amazed I’d been walking, driving and commuting into town after ligament strain he inflicted on my back. And it cost me fifty-five quid for he to tell me that. That’s the exact same sum I owe Blewett for the Chelsea away match he suggested we go to fortnight ago, all in the belief of a surprise result.

That finished 6-1 and he looked a broken man. Tomorrow the only man who may be broken is whoever is in reach at the final whistle and, with the state of my spine, I’ll be slowest out the blocks.

A night in the kitchen with ants May 10, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, Single London.
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After a late-night slog in the office there’s nothing like the prospect of returning home to a house infested with flying ants to add cheer at the end of the day.

Where they have come from I know not. Their timing seems to have come with another self-created shooting in the foot on the personal front, but I am presently sitting, swatting limply with a QPR programme. A man of a certain age reduced to being an extra in a bad Damien Hirst installation in his own designer kitchen. Give it five minutes and Charles Saatchi will be looking to exhibit me on the South Bank.

Wishful thinking. Whereas Hirst could command a cool million for this I can see that I’ll be forking out for fumigation tomorrow, but it’ll be worth it simply so I can stop being stuck in a fucking metaphor.

By sheer coincidence, through the haze of ants, I’ve just opened an email from my recently departed cleaner Pavlina (touchingly, her email address is ‘CleanhousePavlina’ so clearly this is not a woman who lives in fear of being typecast). She’s departed in the sense that she has hung up her marigolds and headed back to Bulgaria to be with family, was missing her favourite clients in England and wanted news.

I’m half-tempted to send her a picture of myself and the worktops she tended covered in insects and other ephemera to show her what has happened as a result of her own shameful self-indulgence.

This would be a diversion to avoid telling her about Aggy from Poland, her replacement. Not only was Aggy brought in within days of Pavlina’s departure, is a beast with the Dyson, but she also has the significant advantage in the cleaning trade of not being allergic to dust, which tragically played havoc with Pavlina’s skin (as a result she used to clean mostly the clean areas with admirable ferocity but there were parts of the house, namely those that actually needed cleaning, that simply couldn’t be breached). Bulgaria 0 Poland 1.

Perhaps it’s for the best I simply tell her all is well and send her a picture of me and the mop and be done with it. Who knows, maybe this was planned all along by Pavlina. Maybe her email is no coincidence, an attempt to undermine the stoic work of Aggy and get a recall to heroically repell the invaders, like Zhukov knocking back the Bosch at Moscow. Bulgaria 2 Poland 1 (AET). Clever.

As for the ants, I think I may take to them: they aren’t too demanding company, certainly more civilised than your average Chelsea fan, but I have noted that even they seem intent on getting out of the house rather than hanging around. They too have probably noticed the stark absence of food and wine. Frankly, wherever it is they think is the better option tonight, I think I may join them.

Djibril Cisse gave me whiplash (and I liked it) May 7, 2012

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There’s living proof in my sorry arsed form that it’s possible to suffer whiplash watching Queens Park Rangers. A split second after Djibril Cisse scored an 89th minute winner to pull us out of the relegation zone I found myself in a headlock of an adrenalin pumped publican who proceeded to throw me around the stratosphere of Shepherds Bush until I landed back in a broken heap in my seat. He was still roaring like a primal being as I was doing a spot-check to see if anything had been snapped off. Such are the dangers of last-minute winners in the battle to stay in the Premiership

Even in joy there appears to be agony. Today my neck and spine are a twisted and broken column of vertibrae, but at least we are out of the relegation zone with one game to go. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I’d have given a limb and an organ in order to put the tension to rest.

The girlfriend seemed genuinely shocked today when I described that moment as ‘one of the highlights in my life’. Let us be clear that my life has been extremely rewarding, but nothing exceptional and with so much of its leisure time spent either in the W12 this has largely consisted of dashed hopes, disappointment and abject failure.

Otherwise, and with the exception of maintaining a no-claims bonus, there have been no births, marriages, awards, first-places, mentions in dispatches, Time magazine editorials on my enriching contribution to society or any other accolades of any note.

‘What about time we climbed Dunns River Falls together in Jamaica?’ she asked. Well, yes, precisely. That can be a bought experience and didn’t involve emotional risk, especially as it was shared with thirty morbidly obese Americans in their swimming costumes waddling up from the rear. Hardly the stuff of Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing.

Yesterday’s Cisse moment of seeing the ball hit the net was a spontaneous mass hysterical release of 17,000 people who invest most of their time and money into something that never actually comes off, who always fear the worst and get it delivered in abundance. The casualty wards of Uxbridge, Acton, Northolt and Notting Hill have probably never seen so many self-inflicted injuries all registered in the space of the same moment.

What we now have is hope and I will take being temporarily crippled for that. It will all be decided next Sunday and I will actually be in the pub of said landlord. There’s a chance I may die if we stay up, but it is a risk worth taking. God knows what he will do to me if we go down.

Osama Bin Llama: rebranding al-Queda May 4, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, In the news.
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osama

Documents seized by U.S authorities in the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout and just released reveal the global terror chief was planning a change of name and strategic approach for al-Queda’s ‘tarnished’ image. This attempt to regain popularity in the Islaamic world was cut short by a bullet to the head after his position was located, but among the papers seized was a pitch documents from a leading London creative agency with ideas on how to rebrand al-Queda for a wider consumer audience.

For the the first time, we can reveal the agency document Osama had received and signed off (pending approval by al-Queda’s procurement department):

Our Platform: 9/11 is soooo over!

There’s a recession on. Budgets are down. People are tightening their suicide belts. Long gone are the  days of demolishing landmarks of US imperialism on home soil for a TV spectacular. Instead it’s all about engagement, going digital, a softer approach and collaboration with cooler third-parties than the Saudis.

And yes, we signed the confidentiality agreement. The absolute sensitivity you kept repeating re. this brief was highly stressed to Alice, our nine-year old intern.

The Stella McCartney Suicide Belt

Lets look first at one of your iconic pieces of attire. We say it’s time for a bit of reinterpretation: no one wants to be seen dead wearing something so cumbersome and bricky. Look at the design! There’s no give and it’s not in tune with modern metrosexual needs. No wonder recruitment is down!

That’s why we’ve got Stella on board to add her flair to the ultimate jihadist accessory: the limited-edition Stella 100 suicide belt, made entirely from ethically-sourced materials.

Stella has spent six months and several hundred thousand pounds taking her inspiration from Afghan rug patterns to come up with a design that is an Afghan rug pattern (We were fanning ourselves too! How DOES she do it). The suicide belt comes with an iPhone pouch, hidden make-up kit, bottled water holder and a panic button (just in case someone has a last minute change of heart and wants to be saved – cute!).

We’ve also noted from our research your old style belts tended to come apart after being worn once out on the town. What are we, Primark? So Stella has come up with a much more durable design that can be worn right through the season. This reaffirms your sustainability, ethical and premium credentials.

The Tora Bora Pop-Up Restaurant 

Pop-up is back and badder than ever before! In homage to your years spent in hiding in a mountain wilderness, we’ll create a one-week only Tora Bora dining experience by dumping  2,000 tonnes of rocks on a group of creatives and food, style and fashion writers in Shoreditch (Potters Bar is already booked up by the Zionists that week for their Seven Day War reenactment) for an experiential campaign to celebrate those glory years.

Teaming up with food alchemists Bompas and Parr we’ll serve a heritage menu of edible dirt and shrapnel, served in the dark. For an extra £50k the digital guys have put their heads together and come up with a plan to seed out a live stream to ‘share the darkness’.

If any journalist, blogger or consumer attempts to make a phone call, Facebook status update, tweet or speaks, cries or moves we cluster bomb the entire Shoreditch area. Again, we think this will be for great viral content and potentially a record number of Facebook ‘likes’ – which is what it’s ALL about in 2012!

Float an Iceburqa Down the Thames

Everyone loves ice sculptures, right. What is a PR campaign without one! That;s why we are going to float a giant burqa down the Thames with a giant Jihadist clinging onto it all the way up to Parliament. This is our way of saying: watch out, we are coming to get you.

We’ve also arranged with our Cult-cha team a post-stunt event:  the iconic iceburqa to be transported to uber cool gallery White Cube to be turned into ice cubes at an Osama video retrospective attended by Sadie Frost, Peaches Geldolf, Rhys Ifans, Geoff Hurst, Normski, ex-cast members of TOWIE and Dean Gaffney.

Content distribution and social media strategy

For a global terrorist network no one is going to take you seriously if you keep seeding out your updates via a single VHS video tape. While we admire the 80’s retro approach, lets give it a makeover. Kelly Hoppen is going to reinterpret your rock interiors to make the backdrop a bit more ‘shi-shi’ to appeal to a wider female and gay-friendly audience. On that note, lose the beard.

The Digital Guys have created their own social platform so you can engage with your followers: Faceburqa. A place where al-Queda members and Jihadists can catch-up, talk about their future plans in a secure area, share anti-Zionist material, farewell videos, Instagram pics of their hideouts, Spotify track listings and Farmville updates.

Osama Bin Llama

Everyone knows you for that long beard. Sooo 2001. Hairy is out, furry is in.  That’s why the guys in planning set about giving your organisation a quirky, cute, friendly face that will engage with adults and children alike: Osama Bin Llama.

For reasons we can’t explain but will justify later when we come to write our awards entry, we’ve created an animated Llama with a Peruvian accent who shares your quirky view on overthrowing Christian-Zionist occupation of the holy lands, but in a much more cheery, engaging manner.

Giles in our ‘Creative Lab’ has also stipulated that Osama likes golf, Angel Delight, watching Eastenders and drives a Smart Car. We did ask him why exactly and Giles stripped to his pants, doused himself in latte which he threatened to light and screamed ‘BECAUSE HE DOES!’ before going into a rocking foetal position under our fussball table. That’s good enough for us. Such. A Genius.

Budgets and KPIs

Budgets are attached but only a ballpark figure to the nearest million. KPIs will be discussed upon appointment.

Confidentiality and speak soon!

So as you’ve probably gathered we are phasing you out in the rebrand. While you’ve stressed confidentiality and we are given to believe this is a sensitive issue on your part. Your secret is safe with us and we haven’t spoke to anyone about this brief outside our all-agency meetings and client meetings.

However, we must also stress that we have spent a lot of time on this and are sensitive about these ideas being shared. Given these ideas and creative approaches are utterly unique and we take our genius very seriously we have also CC’d in a number of governmental and legal departments to enusre that should you undertake them independently.

Ma’a salama!

How to get into PR and stay in it: luck, sweat and tears March 20, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR.
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It’s the time of year when those young enough fortunate to have a future ahead of them ponder the big decisions in life such as what university course to take or, approaching graduation, what career to opt for – and whether this should be PR. Last Friday I got two emails at work out of the blue concerning both matters.

It’s important to offer whatever help or insight is useful to someone finding their way if others more able don’t have the time. Leon is just about to graduate with a finance degree and wanted to know how to get into PR and make a success of it; Natalie had a number of questions what degree to choose for a career in PR.

Apparently my replies were useful (no other agency director replied to Leon) and Natalie has kindly allowed me to reproduce our exchange – which included a big crib from my response to Leon – so if it’s of any further use I’ll share  some advice from the experienced but the unwise on what may help get you a future in public relations.

It’s fifteen years since I saw my first piece of coverage (in Forecourt Trader) working in-house for a retail wholesaler to a Director of Cow today. It also forced me to recall my first ever interview with a major London agency (Red) where I was close to being escorted off the premises but still got the job.

Since then I’ve seen my fair share of award winning campaigns, front-page splashes, frustration, jubilation and disaster. Nothing here is set in stone and other PRs may have their own take but if someone can learn from my mistakes they will go far:

—————————————————————————————————————————

To whom this may concern,
In the future I would like to work in PR, and I love the work your company has done and achieved. I was wondering if you would be able to help me choosing the right studying/career path in order for me to make it successful in the PR industry. I have four university offers ˆ Bournemouth (PR), City (Cass business school ˆ Business Studies), Durham (Marketing) and Lancaster (Marketing Management).

Do you think studying a solely PR degree would be an advantage or does it not matter which degree you study as long as you gain valuable work experience? Would studying in London be more beneficial? Does university reputation and degree matter to you when you employ new staff and what do you look for when employing someone to work for your company?
May I ask how you entered the PR industry?
Sorry about all of the questions, I have wanted to go into PR for a while and am trying to gather professional advice so I can make the right decision to ensure I am going on the right path.
Thank you for your time, I hope to hear from you in the future.
Yours faithfully,
Natalie Hopkins

Hi Natalie,

Like a lot of people around my age (late-30’s) I came into PR by accident. The original intention was to be a journalist. I’d done work experience at The Sun and The Guardian, had a decent prose style and wanted ultimately to be the Washington correspondent of the BBC. I ended up shadowing someone in wholesaling trade PR (exciting stuff – key magazine contacts included Convenience Store, Retail Newsagent, Frozen Food Weekly and Asian Trader) specifically because he’d been a journo. He pointed out to me that PR utilised basic journalism skills, but paid better. I was sold.

After a year of working with him in a box office in Croydon, learning the craft, listening to endless monologues about his failed marriage and building up a portfolio of coverage I’d generated I applied for a job at the lowest rung on the UK’s then most successful, award winning agency at Red.

I did a unspeakably bad interview and was rejected without hesitation. Not having a clue about agency culture and following my father’s advice I turned up in a three-piece suit when everyone else was wearing combat trousers and trainers. I was so nervous I asked the MD in mid-stumbling interview if he minded if I smoked and to this day can still see his lower jaw trembling in shock.

Instead of returning back to frozen food chiller press releases in Croydon I decided to show that I could actually manage a crisis, apply creativity and turn a negative situation into a positive outcome. This was done by writing a letter, an assessment of my interview performance by means of parody that was brutal, damning and completely accurate. I got the job. A week later my clients included Microsoft, Guinness and Prudential. I was up and running.

Times have changed. I’m not entirely sure there were PR degrees in place when I first started thinking about a career. Then it was mostly press releases, phones, faxes, the occasional event or photocall. Now it’s all about engagement, particularly with social media as a priority channel.

But you still need content, an original idea / narrative to create impact. That’s a rule that hasn’t changed since the day the printing press was invented and it’s no different with Twitter or Facebook. The medium is not the message, but just another channel of delivery.

Degrees

If you want to work in PR these days a PR degree helps. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll also get a placement. You’ll also learn a lot of irrelevant stuff.

Doing a dissertation on how to handle to BP oil spillage is great in theory, but the reality is often disillusioning for a many PRs who start thinking they are going to be dealing with a global crisis and then find themselves on the phone to Take a Break pleading with them to feature a toilet wipe or packet soup in their next issue. It’s a long way to the top (but if a person can’t get a new packet soup in a women’s weekly that writes features about quick lunch solutions can they be trusted with a client’s oil slick? I doubt it.)

While it will give you excellent grounding, you’ll probably learn more about PR if you are lucky enough to have a good agency in your first job to teach you the basics.

Truthfully, getting your foot in the door for the first job is not about the three-year degree but how you cut it in a 40 minute interview: confidence, understanding of brands, how media works and what motivates different consumer audiences or stakeholders. An employer isn’t actually considering what you did in the past, but what you can do in the future.

Do whatever course appeals to you. We have people here who did English, History, Photography and Journalism, Marine Biology, Sociology (that one must’ve slipped through the net in retrospect).

Make sure it is going to be something that you will most enjoy and find fulfilling now, rather than solely something that may benefit you in a few years time.

For the record, all the offers you’ve got are great options. Our last three grad appointments all went to Bournemouth, had a whale of a time, know how to work but enhanced the social mix (an off the record tip is being sociable and going to the bar with colleagues never did anyone’s career any harm). It’s maybe coincidence they went to Bournemouth, but they tapped me up on Twitter at times we highlighted vacancies and did the best interviews. They’ve been brilliant since.

Studying in London

It shouldn’t make a difference to getting a career. It’s bloody expensive for starters, but choose your Uni for the course and the other opportunities it offers. I went to Reading and did American Studies, liked the look of the campus and had a phenomenal social life to treasure to this day. I also thought I worked hard at the time, but it compared to nothing than when I actually started work.

Your email comes at a good time. On Friday a graduate asked me for advice how to get a job in PR and what it took to make it a success. Life can be hectic, but I was feeling philanthropic  and thought about it in detail to reply. Here’s a crib from what I wrote to him (below) and may be useful now, but possibly more so in three or four years from now when you’ve got your First.

I’ll sign off from here. Hope it helps and feel free to email me if you have any more questions.

Mark
Director
Cow PR

Decide why you want to be in PR

Some come into it thinking it will be parties, events, canapes, celebrities and networking are rapidly disillusioned. Yes, they may be AT the parties but chances are there will be an Account Director or a client screaming at them for most of the night, blaming them for anything that goes wrong. The celebrites, if they bother to turn up on time or at all, invariably turn out to be ‘challenging’ and the PR will still be there cleaning up the debris when the last guests to leave are in bed or at Boujis.

The people I know who have made a success of it came into it because they had a good work ethic, liked a challenge and, when the opportunity arose, to do work that actually has an impact, makes a difference, gets talked about and wins awards and makes their clients happy. They understand brands, media and most importantly the basic psychology of what motivates different consumer groups.

Most client or new business briefs when deciphered represent a problem or a riddle that has to be solved, a muddied landscape that needs sorting (sales are down; the competition has a superior, cheaper product; we’ve hired a celebrity that no one cares about etc etc). One is rarely in the privileged position of being handed a task of a campaign or launch for something that will make instant news, already has excitement building up around it, massive brand loyalty or has the endorsement of an A-list star whom you have at your disposal to do whatever you want. It’s about using your wits in most instances, adapting to the challenges because the textbook formula on how to be successful doesn’t exist.

This is no bad thing. The best work is when you are working with the underdog, the challenger, the unknown, the brand that isn’t so entrenched in heritage or it’s code of behaviour that you actually can’t do very much creative with it.

Know what PR is

This seems like me being patronising, but it’s a true reflection of many people who we meet at interview stage. In other words, familiarise yourself with the PR work other brands are doing. Typically when asked about PR campaigns they admire a candidate who isn’t up the grade will ring the alarm bell.

It’s remarkable how many people will do one of the following things:

  • Tell me about one our own campaigns – showing the  extent of their research (let alone understanding of the industry) is whatever  they saw on the home page of our website
  • Give a flawless description of an advertising campaign
  • Respond with a blank

Know your media and brands
This is obvious but not always applied – even by senior practitioners who can go stale. Read newspapers, online news, marketing, trends and innovation sites and blogs, follow agencies on Twitter, but most importantly look at agencies websites where their best work is showcased.  The older one gets the more one can learn from junior colleagues. The same follows for brands. It’s likely to come up in interviews about brands that you’d like to work for and why.

Decide what type of agency you want to work for

Consumer or corporate? Global, small, start-up, in-house? Fashion, FMCG or tech clients? There’s also agency culture to factor in and the sort of career you want. A lot of agencies do conventional work and that pays just as well, if not better, has less risk. They get third parties to do their news generation, broadcast, social media and they handle the client and do the planning. However, some of us like to wake up in the morning and hear an idea we scribbled down on a torn piece of paper on the bus a week ago talked about on TV after a bad night’s sleep wondering whether their creative hunch has paid off. That’s where the buzz is.

The most important thing is to take any job and acquire any experience you can. Get a foundation, learn the basics and plan your next move from there.

How to get in

Build relationships on Twitter
I’m the worst networker in the world. I like to get on with my work, hang out with my colleagues and then go home to my friends. However, Twitter has been a saving grace to build relationships, exchange thoughts, sick jokes and a rapport with people in PR and other creative fields without having to set a date and a venue agreeable to both (as used to be the case). Get a presence on Twitter, follow like-minded people. It would’ve been inconceivable five years ago a 21 year old aspirant who is trying to get a job in PR could exchange views on football, fashion, food, trends or bitch about a celebrity with someone who might run an agency that employs hundreds of people. Now you can.

We don’t use recruitment agencies at entry / executive level. If a recruiter contacts me and says ‘I’ve got a creative, dynamic person with lots of initiative who is desperate to work at Cow’ I ask ‘Well why didn’t they contact us then?’.

PR’ing yourself
If you were your own client, how would you approach the brief of getting a job in a creative business that sees CVs every day (and very few that say or do anything different or new). Think what is actually going to  make you stand out and appeal to an employer. Be different to stand out, but be subtle – ambition is a splendid, but there’s nothing more annoying than someone thinking that work is a game of The Apprentice. Overconfidence or being ’IN YOUR FACE’ is probably rightly interpreted as arrogance. Humility, nuanced subtly and understatement is a wonderful thing.  An employer is looking for someone with potential and the desire to learn, they aren’t expecting the complete package. However, different approaches though will appeal to different employers with different agency cultures.

The important thing is: don’t say it, show it – Most CVs say “I’m passionate, I live and breathe brands, I’m creative, I’m dynamic, have a great visual eye and understanding of media”. An approach to an agency is an opportunity to bring those words to life.Give an employer a reason they want to know more or, even better, can’t turn you down.

That bit is up to you. Good luck.

I Fought the Law (and the workshop won) October 31, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Thirtynumbthing.
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I’m becoming more convinced by the day that God exists. Not only that, he reads Blokely, has a malevolent sense of humour – how else does one explain the West Midlands accent – and he very much has it in for me. In the last missive for these pages I wrote that the only invite I was likely to get these days was a summons. With perfect timing, not one, but two arrived on the same day.

The first was from my electricity supplier. In the age of direct debit and social media envelopes are something of an anachronism, the assumption is that everything has been paid for and they keep posting letters as a genial mark of thanks and we aren’t actually required to open them. Not so. It appears I hadn’t paid the bill for a separate meter which measures the power for the electric gates. That will shake them up at the Anarchist Society.

I never realised EDF could get so livid. Had Don Logan from Sexy Beast drafted it I couldn’t have felt more intimidated. Within an instant, a call was made to their hotline. Contrary to the threatening tone of the letter I was dealt with by Cheryl, a pleasant woman who spoke with Estuary vowels and reassuring sibilance. All it took was a frisson of remorse, but more importantly my bank details, and I was no longer a desperado.

The other letter was postmarked from Sidcup. What ill will and irritation towards me could ever come from little Sidcup? Well, rather a lot it seems. It was from the Metropolitan Police who wanted to know if I was behind the wheel when my vehicle was snapped speeding towards Hammersmith at 37 mph at 10am on a recent Saturday.

The irony was not lost on me. Almost every other Saturday at around 5pm I can be found driving AWAY from Hammersmith at speed after an afternoon at Queens Park Rangers and certainly not with three points for my troubles.

The idea of doing anything at speed on a Saturday morning, in Hammersmith or elsewhere, is anathema to all cherished instincts and ideals yet I didn’t think this declaration would’ve washed with the Met.

With no recollection of driving through West London at speed on this or any other Saturday, but with information to hand that I had been photographed doing so, what comebacks does a confused man have? Perhaps a picture of myself in my pants sitting at the kitchen table with big hair and a croissant, Anadin and the Times crossword sent back as a rebuttal? ‘Here is a picture of me moving at precisely 0mph at the time in question. Accusation denied.’

Unlike God, the Met probably doesn’t have a sense of humour and when faced with impertinence the eyes of the law tend not to blink first. So I ‘fessed up’ which was a task that involved ticking a box, posting a letter and waiting to hear back from the Met.

That verdict came in today from Sidcup. I could have £60 and three penalty points, but the Met are prepared to make me another offer: £97.02 and going to a workshop with no penalty points. Points or workshop? Which one is it going to be? There’s something reassuring that when beneath the law’s sword of Damocles the spirit of Jim Bowen is invoked as one is invited to weigh up the choices.

Common sense probably dictates I should go for the Speed Awareness Workshop, but I can’t. Here’s why. It’s the word ‘workshop’. In an instant it conjures up 1980s images of drama students on Open University or feminists, all called Ros, with long skirts and unfettered chests sat in circle talking about the spirituality of their menstrual cycle. Latterly, like veganism, it seems to have slipped into mainstream acceptability, unpleasantly so into normal working life when, with no prior warning, any discussion involving more than two people can suddenly be branded a ‘workshop’. It bloody isn’t and we must seize it back.

My late Uncle Ray was a carpenter all his life. He worked in a pre-fabricated hut with a dozen other blokes in a plume of smoke and choice language with a sun bleached pin-up of Linda Lusardi on the wall. Ray wore a flat cap, had a fag permanently attached to his lower lip, used power tools with no protective clothing, drunk mugs of milky tea and was permanently covered in sawdust.When he clocked off at 5pm he had a shelf unit to show for it. Now that’s a workshop.

This misappropriation may have infiltrated even the Met as an alternative form of punishment, but I’d sooner do a spell inside than say ‘I’m going to a workshop’ – I’d stake my license on the ‘Group Leader’ being called Ros.

So, in honour of Ray and all those men who for centuries sawed, sweated and swore in confined spaces I’m taking the three points, Jim. Though I must confess to feeling the first pang of regret saying I’d take a proper punishment – given my current form, higher powers could be reading this, be they in Sidcup or himself so don’t be surprised if the next instalment comes from my stint in the Scrubs.

Not a workshop.

This post first appeared as Thirtynumbthing @blokely.com

PR’s Alive?! April 6, 2014

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Media.
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flash25smThe spirit of Francis Fukuyama (now there’s a name to say after a few drinks) was summoned this week with Robert Phillips’ PR Week article entitled ‘PR is dead: Public leadership is the future‘.

After the collapse of the Iron Curtain Fukuyama famously wrote a thesis in 1992 called The End of History, not foreseeing among other things: the Balkan conflict, 9/11 and Al-Qaeda, the global financial collapse, the rebirth of Russia as an economic and military power, the tyranny of quinoa and David Moyes. And as anyone who has ever watched a Hollywood horror film will know, declaring the end or death of anything without a certificate inevitably leads to a pair of zombie hands round the throat to open the door for a lucrative franchise.

So I came into work last week expecting an eerie silence, Maddie the receptionist sobbing into a Kleenex and to be handed my P45 by a solemn faced usher as I surveyed the windswept debris of a PR agency that had been singing, dancing and telling jokes only the day before. Not so. We were alive. Rejoice.

Now there is much to laud in the article. PR, laden with many human character traits, does tend to follow the buck. Too much CSR is flawed or tokenistic. Lots of the food that is marketed as healthy is quite the opposite (low fat usually means high sugar and don’t even start me on Omega 3 bread) and so on. But PR is also about forming an argument, debate, building communities and battling it out across media and social networks and direct to consumers. That applies to anything from GM crops, the fifth runway to your choice of soap powder.

However Robert argues that this is not enough. Engagement should be replaced by public leadership and should address societal needs. This same argument has notably been applied before not only to PR but to everything from literature to pop music and, of course, politics (where his argument definitely applies, as this is an area that now consistently follows rather than leads).

We are not only dead but ‘broken’, ‘tired’ and ‘bloated’. That is a broad brush stroke that doesn’t make any exception or allow any give. Especially as every day I see work and ideas that are creative, original, bold and invariably delivered with wit and warmth.

So where does this leave the world of consumer PR that many of us work in? Consumers are pretty good judges of what they like and they vote not only with their money but their heads. It also assumes that those of us working in these fields will peddle whatever message pays the best rates and that’s simply not true. It’s in our interests to give the best advice and stop a client aiming a gun at their own foot as we’ll a) have to clear up the mess and b) get the blame for not seizing the firearm.

Will we see Hob Nobs with a conscience, organic-only Asdas or the Avon Lady quoting Antonio Gramsci on her rounds? I doubt it. Why not? Because consumers will go elsewhere to brands they can relate to and delivers them the best value. That is the flip side of progressive capitalism – you can’t enforce an argument for social change, only deliver it. People make the final decision. Businesses are free to embrace radical change but they can also go bust.

Ultimately, there are different schools and practices of PR serving different needs – all listening and responding to consumers. Sometimes PR is just about being maverick, entertaining and disruptive because that’s what excites many audiences and makes brands stand out. Paddy Power can shock at times but then it can also use its power of reach and influence to pull Rainbow Laces out of the hat when it wants. One example of many.

So is PR dead? Well, if it isn’t then Robert’s headline certainly made good copy, grabbed everyone’s attention and ignited a debate. That in itself is good old-fashioned PR, so in declaring it dead it’s safe to assume that PR is alive and kicking after all.

A stroke of bad luck October 7, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR, Thirtynumbthing.
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Apparently I’m likely to have a stroke and not of the good luck variety. That’s according to the letter of invitation for a scan at the local village hall, opened in good faith and read as a fine accompaniment to my
cornflakes and sore head on Saturday morning. That certainly lit the touch paper for the weekend.

Had this column had been fired off  a week before it was going to be a nauseatingly pious and preachy piece on how easy it is to give up drinking fora few weeks. As it turned out, it would have to resort how easy it is to cave in. It appears the only things required to consign a few weeks of sobriety to empties bin is a ray of sunshine, New Girlfriend working and an oldacquaintance saying his wife had given him a pass.

The past three Saturdays had been full of purpose: up early, clear head, morning coffee, papers, no dealing with accusations or recriminations, shopping, and maybe even a period of controlled exertion down the gym or swimming pool. If there was a time not to have fallen off the wagon and wake up full of remorse with a stinker behind theeyes then this was it. I swear the Life Line Screening Organisation had beenhiding behind the bushes watching my arrival home before popping the invitethrough the letterbox. They know their target market. Catch a man at his mostvulnerable moment, just when he wakes up full of woe and staggers down the stairs looking like a bad case of taxidermy toward the buff envelopes.

The way things are going the only invite I’m likely to get these days is a summons, but this is hardly a
step up. It stated that I am ‘now of the age’ where I might want to considergetting a scan order to prevent a stroke. Even more worryingly I was inclined to agree.

I, for one, am happy to take time out to consider the testimony of Mrs Rudham from Oxfordshire and her
carotid artery disease, but not have the ire of the invite turned upon myself:

WHAT WOULD YOUR DOCTOR SAY IF HE OR SHE COULD ACTUALLY SEE INSIDE YOUR ARTERIES?

Quite frankly, I’m in no particular rush to the village hall to find out. Everyone involved would probably have to lie down if they did. God knows what they’d say if they couldsee inside and it would certainly be unprintable, possibly offensive enough toget them struck off.  There’s a good chance we’d all be on the news by tea time.

Let’s take an upstanding artery at the age of 16: introduce it to women, public houses, university, clubbing
and then a job in PR in the age of the halcyon age of the client lunch on expenses. Throw in best friends who include a publican with a pair of tattooed on his arse and a fine wine merchant. Add to those two relegations, an aversion to outdoor pursuits, a string of relationships that could’ve been scripted by
Stephen King, and investment of funds in a high-interest Icelandic bank account just before the crash. Then mix with a number of misspent holidays and city breaks with people who shouldn’t be allowed out of a straight-jacket let alonethe country. Would you be able to see a sound artery to be proud of? I doubt it.

By comparison Mrs Rudham’sarteries were probably as clear as the Channel Tunnel during a train strike. She’s in fine fettle now and about to enjoy a three-month sailing trip with her husband. Good for her. Active. Had she said she was going to spend the next three-months sitting on a commuter train wondering if the Bulgarian cleaner hadrazed the house then I’d have not be so moved.

If the stroke scan invite didn’t do for me, watching QPR lose 6-0 to Fulham on Sunday almost did. Their heaviest defeat in my living memory and there were no scans to show that was coming. What I thought was an aneurysm around 4-0 was just a burning eye-brain reaction to watching ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall go into a tailspin every time someone in white advanced towards him. Keeping score was problematic enough. There followed no drowning of sorrows just a night spent indoors in a torpor trying to forget.

The vow is now to get back on the wagon and focus on wellbeing. None of this is down to my being the age for a scan. There’s more pressing problems caused by Fitz Hall than could berevealed in the village hall. If I can get treatment to remove any memories of that performance lurking in mysystem I will be first in the queue.

100 Minutes of Solitude October 7, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Uncategorized.
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I really better do something before the girlfriend comes round later this afternoon. There’s a plate in the kitchen table next to the laptop that would make Tracey Emin think twice. It’s the accumulation of a man left to his own lazy devices: some aged rice, three empty soy sauce packets, a piece of chewing gum and five dog ends. The plate itself rest on a letter from Life Line screening informing me I’m now of the age where I could have a stroke. Charming.

Charles Saatchi may pay a fortune for this, but otherwise it marks me down as someone who really should know better . the fact of the matter is that even on a day off the last thing I want to do is confront it. Instead plate and I have been having a stare out now for several evenings and the heap has merely been added to when an ashtray has proven to be out of reach.

What she will mkake of it I don’t intend to find out. What women will never understand is that after working till late every night and managed to find only a modicum of time to pass out after a brief session on FIFA 12 that the first brief window of free time in a week simply cannot be spent scraping a plate. Surely it’s far better to have a Diet Coke, put on Sky Sports News and smoke a cigarette and write something about the predicament and hope that said plate will go away?

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