A note from Bamboo PR: Today we’re back with Sarah Dickinson for her second guest post. Sarah’s a great PR connection of Marco’s and heads up Canonical’s comms department – the publishers of Ubuntu – as Global Communications Director.
As mentioned in Sarah’s first guest post on some in-house PR myths, Marco and Sarah have known each other for some time and they regularly meet to talk shop. Thanks for sharing some extra advice, Sarah.
Firstly, what’s it like managing agency partners, what would your advice to them be?
Depends on the agency! On the advice front, there are many obvious ones like building chemistry, taking time to understand your client’s business and so on, but there are less obvious ones.
Firstly, for those working in a client’s agency network (when a company uses multiple agencies at once) – see yourselves as a team rather than competition.
I’ve experienced both scenarios, but my current roster is very collaborative and self-sufficient, which is hugely appreciated. Any agency trying to step outside of this for their own benefit won’t win long or short term.
Secondly, if as an agency you haven’t delivered on something or executed successfully, be honest.
Don’t try and pull the wool over the client’s eyes. I would respect the honesty and a constructive discussion as to the reasons why.
Marco says: “We often work alongside other agencies and want the client to succeed. That means working together. The goal should always be on how to collectively raise a company’s profile.”
How often do you get approached by agencies to appoint them?
I used to get approached more in my last role at Toshiba, which stands to reason as it is a more visible brand, had a consumer division and a perceived larger business opportunity to agencies from the outside.
Also, the nature of what Canonical does is a lot more technical and not all agencies have the required skillset, knowledge or experience needed.
Even though PR agency approaches may be less, the amount of pitches around PR and social media measurement and other related tools is just as high at Canonical.
Marco says: “I speak to a lot of companies at different stages of the PR process and the thing that always surprises me is the amount of people who don’t take the time to look at a company before engaging them. Impersonal relationship building is a no-no.”
Who do you often report into?
Marketing and in my current role, the VP of Marketing.
Perhaps unusually, I have never reported into a dedicated PR or communications professional. Reporting into Marketing has its pros and cons depending on the team and organisation.
On the plus side, I’ve found my roles have expanded further into other disciplines outside of pure PR because the associated skillset lends itself better than other marketing colleagues – such as social media, influencers, content marketing, internal communications and analyst relations.
On the flip side, working in communications within a heavily lead gen focused marketing team can feel a bit like an island at times, with the priority focused on meeting quarterly, sales orientated targets.
This also links to the perennial PR problem of measurement and attribution.
Without being able to quantify the value of your PR efforts, then regardless of everything else, it’s always going to be harder to prove your value. We have built ways in which we can link PR outputs to lead gen, SEO and web traffic to help demonstrate value. However, the awareness benefits of PR should not be forgotten even if they are harder to measure in a data-driven world.
Marco says: “The age-old question of measurement. It’s important for a company to see the inherent value of PR as a brand awareness initiative, otherwise the relationship will be strained from the start.”
What do you love about working in-house?
Marketing and in my current role, the VP of Marketing.
Good question, I’d probably say the variety, which often comes from getting to apply your comms principles to multiple parts of an organisation.
As mentioned earlier, the skills of a PR professional transcend across other disciplines and working in-house gives you a platform to get involved in areas outside of just media relations. It also gives you exposure to a wider array of stakeholders.
Knowing how to convey your story to journalists without overtly promoting your product or business may seem straightforward to any good PR person. However, it’s amazing just how difficult others find promoting their product through thought leadership instead of a straight up sales pitch.
This is just one example of how an in-house PR can extend their influence and knowledge across the business.
Marco says: “This is cool to hear. Working at Bamboo PR is full of variety because of our mix of clients, but it’s also interesting how there’s just as much variety if you are in-house.”
Finally, what does a typical day look like for you (if there’s such a thing)?
Days are more predictable in my current role and working for a largely remote company leads to many video calls to communicate with colleagues.
On the comms side of my role (I also look after content, social, etc.), I have a weekly or fortnightly call with all our agencies. Other than that, most of the meetings are internal – syncing with product managers, marketing or other colleagues.
I’ve always assumed it is a PR person’s trait, but I do monitor my inbox closely as you never know when a media request or issue can come through which needs jumping on quickly.
Marco says: “In an agency like ours, we’re often sending our clients PR opps with short deadlines. We’re always really appreciative when they jump on things quickly despite having other priorities.”
About Sarah Dickinson
An experienced communications leader with a consumer and B2B technology background, Sarah’s current role is Global Communications Director at Canonical – the publishers of Ubuntu – where she leads PR, analyst relations, social media and content marketing. Prior to this, Sarah led European PR and internal communications for Toshiba. She can be found on Twitter.