Persuasion PR - News

Take stock but don’t press pause on your PR

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


Having worked in the industry for over 30 years in which at least three recessions have occurred, it comes as no surprise that the fallout from the pandemic is resulting in many companies ‘pausing’ activity.


Yet, in our experience the clients that continued to invest in their PR programmes during recessions were the ones who benefitted the most – as counter intuitive as that may seem.


There’s research to support this. A recession study published in a 2010 Harvard Business Review article suggests that companies that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals have the lowest probability (just 21%) of pulling ahead of the competition when things get better.


Furlough, social distancing guidelines and covid secure legislation has changed the way we are all working – throwing up new opportunities and practices. For some, savings will have been made with less business travel, ‘away days’, conferences, seminars and events.


Our top tips for PR in a pandemic are:


1. Regular communication – Openly and honestly communicate with all your audiences (employees, customers, clients, suppliers and the public) to let them know how your business is doing


2.   Trial new communication channels – Social Media platforms, create a short vlog, blog or podcast to increase reach


3.   Share your success stories – Tell others about how you have supported staff, new cost efficiencies and savings and or new / improved products / services for customers / new partnerships


4.   Do more with less – prices associated with PR generally decline in a recession – advertising, printing, photography etc – so campaigns or publications that you might not have had the budget to use prior might now be feasible


5.   Go on the offensive – use this opportunity to gain ‘share of voice’ and market share. Whilst others put the breaks on spending and remain silent, be the company / brand regularly appearing in the news – a leader in your industry.


We would recommend maintaining your pr presence without being bullish, overly opportunistic and tone deaf to the current climate. Delivering a consistent message and engaging with your customers during this challenging period will foster trust, empathy and loyalty.


Paul Dobbie

PR in a pandemic

Monday, July 27, 2020



With face coverings muting much of our interaction and communication, when coronavirus cruelly catapulted us into our ‘new normal’ the PR industry, like many, seemed to hit pause.


Not dissimilar to the recession of 2008, company’s stopped in their tracks, restructured, restricted budgets and in some cases made redundancies. Services deemed none essential were put on hold or cancelled as organisations carefully considered their next move.


A frightening and challenging time for us all professionally and personally. Get it wrong and you could risk yours and your employees health and well being as well as damaging the businesses reputation.


However, burying your head in the sand and hoping this will all blow over is not an option. Now more than ever communication is essential for all organisations. With government guidelines, working practices and legislation changing frequently, you need to make sure this is communicated clearly to staff, sub contractors, customers and the public.


This is where your PR support can help. Inherent to our role is the ability to communicate professionally, credibly and with a client’s best interests at heart. On the whole, your employees, customers and the public are reasonable, but the expectation is that your company will be clear, fair and truthful.


As a result, I believe PR and crisis management practitioners are going to be one of the most sought after resources mid and post pandemic.


In my experience PR professionals are naturally inquisitive, able to improvise and do more with less. Much like journalists, we like to embed ourselves in a company and in doing so can often provide solutions or new ideas to support other areas of a business.


In a crisis situation – for example a fatal accident at a work place or the leaking of sensitive information – a PR professional would add hugely to the capabilities of the management team which responds.


Likewise, in the midst of the chaos caused by coronavirus, there can be added value in allowing PRs into other areas of your business from HR decision making and the potential news of job losses / redundancy to the IT department which may shed light on new working practices and technology that is facilitating the company’s survival.


Many clients are fearful of contributing to the coronavirus conversation, but please bear in mind that many journalists have been briefed or even redeployed to only cover coronavirus news, with most keen to locate positive news stories to arise from the pandemic.


Our mouths may be covered for now, but they don’t need to be muted.


If you would like to find out more about how PR can help your business, take a look at our services or get in touch for a virtual coffee and an informal chat. Tel: 0845 071 0678


Paul Dobbie


Monday, July 20, 2020

The last four months at work have perhaps been amongst the most challenging of my career, but have provided opportunities for new ways of working – most being driven by technology (which as my team will tell you is not my forte!).


With over 40 years’ experience, split between journalism and the PR industry, it is evident that much like the shift to online shopping, news outlets and organisation’s marketing and sales offerings have exploded on digital platforms.


Many businesses, like ours, accessed the furlough scheme. This resulted in fewer staff in offices in line with the government message to #stayathome #workfromhome. Consequently we noticed that many newsrooms were understandably running on skeleton staff, with much of the editorial content pulled from online sources.


Of course there are pros and cons to this. Some readers feel that the news is not relatable / localised to their community, however access to digital platforms is instantaneous, with updates and breaking news streamed live. As a consultancy our aim is to make sure our clients’ content is appearing in the right places online.


Whilst copy writing – for local and national newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, newsletters, staff communications and promotional films – is an essential service we offer, we are supporting clients through this accelerated shift to digital marketing as a result of the pandemic.


Complementing ‘traditional pr’, those as long in the tooth as me will understand this as providing quality written news releases and eye catching photography to print, broadcast and online journalists, as a team we are utilising online platforms too.


In an ever-growing tech and digitally enhanced world, with the majority accessing news on phones, laptops and tablets, making the shift and merging your approaches or even thinking about making the shift to digital pr, will certainly reap benefits.


Putting out engaging content online including blogs, podcasts vlogs, short films/ testimonials, visual posts, downloadable resources, press releases, social media posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and user-generated content, are just a few ways to engage with your audience and increase interaction.


In addition we can help clients manage feedback and nip any constructive criticism in the bud by responding in a timely manner to any online queries raised – maintaining credibility and reputation.


Top tips

* Start small – set up a social media page – Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or You Tube Channel. As the audience grows you can promote across all platforms


* Post regularly but AVOID repetition fatigue – information needs to be bitesize, easy to digest and engaging


* Poll opinion – use digital platforms to get a steer directly from your customer what they want


* Images and short videos capture attention – Tik Tok anyone? Enough said!


* Podcasts are increasingly popular and the spoken word can evoke strong response if the message is clear.



Paul Dobbie

Your reputation opens or closes doors. Protect it at all costs!

Monday, June 15, 2020

A good reputation takes years to build but just one ill-judged decision to destroy – as the owner of a well known national pub chain proved at the beginning of lockdown


Experience has taught us that, in the face of economic uncertainty, budgets for services such as public relations, marketing, social media, B2B and consumer campaigns are often cut, to help improve cash flow and support a business at the coal face.


It is a difficult decision for any organisation and there is no doubt that many – us included – are reviewing working practices in light of the pandemic, to improve efficiencies and provide added value for our clients.


However, we would urge any company flying solo and trying to manage all aspects from finance to human resources and public relations to consider the following:


- COMMUNICATION: The message needs to be clear.


- AUDIENCE: Who are you targeting?  The message, medium and method will differ, dependent on your audience


- KEYBOARD WARRIOR: If tackling social media criticism, beware a ‘tit for tat’ typing battle over a political / sensitive news topic.  This is particularly true if the opinion you are sharing differs from that of the company you represent  and


- VERBAL DIARRHOEA or WALL OF SILENCE: Both can damage reputation.  From information overload to brand fatigue.  Similarly, ‘no comment’ or not providing any company details can lead to unwanted speculation and potentially ‘false’ news


- DON’T PROMISE WHAT YOU CAN’T DELIVER: In a fast-paced world where trust is hard to come by – promises matter. They’re how people learn whether they can truly believe in you, and your company


- HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: Similar to the above.  Don’t over egg the pudding.  Know your own and your company’s worth but don’t fabricate services / products if you know that you can’t deliver the standard required to time or budget.  As an SME we understand our strengths but also the areas where we require expert support.  We champion working with like minded businesses through an open and honest culture to ensure clients receive the complete package, delivered by professionals who are experts in their field.


Finally, never be afraid to ask for help; or to run an idea past an ex colleague, friend, an acquaintance you have met through networking who has experience of public relations and reputation management.  After all the best form of reputation management is through word of mouth and the positive recommendations of others.


Paul Dobbie

Cummings or goings?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

That news conference in the garden at Downing Street reminded me of the TV quiz show Call my Bluff (Would I lie to you for younger readers), except there was no big reveal!


So, let’s have a straw poll. Who believes Dominic Cummings and was that hour, gripping viewing that it was, the best way to deal with the situation?


As a former journalist and PR practitioner for the past 46 years I am pretty clear on this. No.


My advice to clients is: “If you are in a hole. Stop digging.” In this case, as far as I can see, they have just been passing the shovel from one person to the next as the hole got deeper.


We provide crisis communications advice and would, in this event, have sat down with Mr Cummings, listened to his explanations and then fired the most difficult questions we could think of at him.


His answers and the way he behaved, body language, eye line, tone of voice etc. would have informed us as to whether giving an interview was in the best interests of reputation.


I cannot believe that the PM and his top PR advisors would not have done the same.


So I can draw only the following conclusions:


- He performed much more credibly in rehearsal

- The questions he was asked in rehearsal were not sufficiently probing

Clearly the event did not close the matter down and one thing is certain. If Mr Cummings thought he was under media scrutiny before, he will be lucky if he can break wind without it being recorded from now on.


My advice, to provide the country with a credible explanation would have been to issue the following statement as soon as the story broke:


“I am very sorry for my actions which, if not technically in breach of the regulations, were against the spirit of the lockdown advice. Under pressure, I made the wrong decision and I deeply regret this.


“I have let down myself, the Prime Minister, the Government and many, many people across the UK who have shown far greater restraint in much more testing circumstances.


“If the PM decides I should leave my post, I will resign. Otherwise I will redouble my efforts to support policy making which will help get the country through this crisis for the sake of all those who have followed the guidance far more diligently than me.”


Is that something we could all believe?



Paul Dobbie