Four Tips for pitching to Sunday Times Money, from Editor Becky Barrow

By Joey Green

On Wednesday 9th December, I got up bright and early to attend the last Gorkana Breakfast Meeting of 2015, which was with Becky Barrow, Editor of Sunday Times Money.

Becky, who joined the Sunday Times last year after nine years on the Business section of the Daily Mail, was passionate, eloquent and incredibly knowledgeable. She knew her audience and knew exactly what she looked for in a story, so we’re going to share some of the insights.

Firstly, when talking about the Sunday Times readership, Becky said the average reader was a well-informed, wealthy professional – who was also charming and grateful for the tips produced in the section. A nice bunch!

The section is made up of the Have Your Say letters, investment tips, the Fame and Fortune interview, among other things including personal stories.

Here are her tips for pitching stories to her

1) Keep your content accessible.

Becky began by saying that money is not a dry subject, it’s about real people and personal stories and that case studies are at the core of the section. People need to know where to get good financial advice and Becky is making the Sunday Times Money section the place to get it. She was also keen to point out that the financial crisis is entirely different from personal finance. She tries to avoid financial jargon and when it’s unavoidable, will make sure it’s explained in full.

2) Real life case studies to back up your story are almost vital.

A lot of readers’ letters make up stories in the section, providing relatable content that can really help others. One of Becky’s favourite stories was around children who had been cut out of their parent’s will and, interestingly, this was almost solely women. Again, this was a story helped by readers’ letters.

3) Don’t pitch Joe Bloggs, CEO of another-company-no-ones-heard-of for Fame & Fortune.

If you want to pitch for the Fame & Fortune section then you must ensure your client is relevant at the time and well known. Oh, and don’t pitch someone who’s already been featured as this just isn’t their bag, unless it’s the Queen.

4) Don’t oversell. If you want an advertisement, pay for an advertisement.

They are always looking for new experts to comment but if you pitch your client make sure it’s subtle and isn’t sales-y.

Becky Barrow can be found on Twitter at @beckymbarrow


The humble newsletter: our guide to producing the best

By Emily Barnes

External communication is imperative to a company- its what keeps us in a job, at least. Email newsletters are a great way to share content and a powerful tool for positioning an agency as leaders in their field, giving clients assurance by mapping agency thoughts on their needs, what they’re producing and the work that inspires them; and can be an impressive marketing tactic to showcase agency culture to potential business.

Nevertheless, we've all received a newsletter that we've sent straight to the trash. Why? Because, well…its easy for them to be dull, too long, irrelevant and everything in between.

Apart from a good database of recipients, a slick design and good copywriting, what makes bloody good newsletter content?

We've come up with some nifty guidelines for creating an effective company newsletter, with some helpful advice from a couple of our B2B clients who have a particularly impressive track record for creating some exemplary readable content, if we do say so ourselves.

Valuable content: balancing education and self-promotion

The most obvious start is to make sure, above all else, that your newsletter has value. Like most things, you have to ensure that you're not producing content for the sake of it. Fanclub’s client Emily Maginess, Marketing and Communications Manager at The App Business, explained that the mobile transformation agency ‘Wanted a platform to be able to share not just our own stories, but to give clients access to the knowledge and thinking that we share routinely here.’

Subscribers are going to be bombarded with regurgitated, lazy newsletters, and will just blacklist your offering if its seeping with self-promotion. Whilst you certainly have to weave a bit of narcissism in there (10% is a good rule), the best content will do that work for you, by marking your company as thought leaders and a hub of education and inspiration. Genuinely. For marketing technology agency Techdept, Chief Executive Dan Kirby quite simply produces a newsletter that will ‘give readers good quality content that helps them understand tech’.

It’s sensible to consistently follow a vague structure of a concise spread of original thinking, interesting finds from the industry and beyond, and company news. That way, readers can cherry pick the most interesting parts.

Newsletters should aim to be a voice in a wider conversation, and be generous with their commentary and insight. Think about how you communicate the passion and breadth of thinking that goes into your work; tell the world about how the things you’ve seen, heard or places you’ve been have influenced what you produce or will produce in the future.

Make it personal with ear (and eye) candy

You want people to know who you are and what you're about, beyond the industry realms. What are you watching or listening to? Getting the team to recommend music, podcasts and TV shows, for example, or share personal interests is a great place to start to share your enthusiasm both in and out of the office. You don’t have to stick to company and industry news and thoughts for value; positioning individuals in a wider conversation is simply more engaging. ‘Our strategists are just as likely to talk about conditions and experiences in prisons improving as discussing mobile trends’ adds Emily at The App Business.

That said, keep it succinct

The difference between a newsletter and a blog is that the newsletter offers a quick read through of inspiration without getting too bogged down with content. Link away to your favourite pieces, but leave the in-depth stuff to the blog and keep content short and sweet. Think commentary rather than analysis.

The best newsletters keep content simple but address it very well. Again, a concise structure, headlines an’ all, as well as great copywriting is important in nailing this smart simplicity.

Consistency and process

Bit of a no-brainer, but as with any communication, consistency is key to success and will reap the most rewards.

It’s useful to employ the same tools, individuals and processes for curating your newsletter, or a simple system for delegating who will be

For The App Business, their #TABUpdates issues are curated by strategists, engineers, designers and agile coaches, who work to an effective timeframe. ‘We picked a tool called Curated which allows us to collaborate in house, and work fluid in a 10 day sprint. For the first 5 days we are swapping ideas, thoughts and links, and the following week we’re polishing and crafting. Keeping it narrow in those timescales has kept the content fresh and current’, says Emily.

Get everyone to chip in with ideas for content; whether a completely organic suggestion or request to contribute to a topic or thinking hotspot. Don’t get preoccupied with thinking too long-term: ask people what they’re interested in right now, to keep it timely.

Shareability: the office and beyond

More than their marketing abilities, newsletters are a nice method of internal engagement that can inspire and motivate the team. Company news and goings-on can make your team feel valued and part of the end product, as well as inspiring each other with musings from a variety of places, producing a final piece of work that acts as a feel-good resource.

So, there we have it: Fanclub’s suggestions for newsletters that will get people’s ears pricked just enough to please a whole host of the most time-conscious subscribers.

We’ll leave you with the following thought from Techdept’s Dan Kirby: ‘Newsletters should have good content that is genuinely useful to the person receiving it. NOONE WANTS TO READ PR PUFFERY.’

Never a truer word said.


Porn vs. PR: What does making creative porn have in common with PR?

By Sarah Boulton, at Eurobest, Antwerp

In answer to the question in the title of this blog, it turns out a surprising amount!

Even though at Fanclub we happen to work for one of the largest adult toy retailers in the UK we still didn’t know what to expect from the “Maverick Porn Makers and the Creative Industry” session at Eurobest, and how it would be relevant at all to our industry. I certainly never imagined that one day I would be sat at a media conference, next to my boss, watching porn, and discussing how this translates to our PR lives…YEP it was as awkward as it sounds.

I will save you the ins and outs of the presentation (excuse the pun) such as the debate around the jerkoffability of a porn film and skip to the very end of the session where this surprising revelation of the relevance to PR came about. Specifically when the speakers gave us their four tips to making creative porn, and here they are:

  1. Be brave
  2. Cross-create (cross over genres, gender stereotypes etc.)
  3. Play with the narrative (Make a porn with clothes on instead of without?!)
  4. Get the chemistry right (the right team makes the difference between a good porn and a really bad porn)

Basically all these elements and tips can be applied to any piece of content and particularly when working creatively.

A creative piece of work in the PR industry has to be brave; if you don’t take a risk then you are never ever being truly creative. Brave and daring work that pushes boundaries wins awards, can change opinions and prompt an action – all things that PR agencies want. Cross creating or mashing up ideas is a highly successful tactic in PR – for example in our recent campaign for Tesco Mobile we took the phenomenon of crop circles that have been around for years and mashed it up with a modern phenomenon by creating an emoji crop circle, and people loved it. See, I told you they relate!

So next time you are watching porn, I hope you think about this blog and it inspires you to think more creatively about your work. Actually maybe don’t think about the blog, I imagine that’s the last thing you want to think about in that situation.

Anyway, if you would like to hear more about creative PR and less about porn, do drop us an email at hello@fanclubpr.com.

 


Using war propaganda for peace

By Adrian Ma, at Eurobest, Antwerp

Alexander Smirnov is head of an agency called Tabasco in Kiev. In the agency world, he comes from a unique place, unlike anyone else I’ve encountered.

Growing up with a dictatorship, where news was manipulated every day, he became adept at spotting propaganda and how dictators use it.

At Eurobest, he even shared his Dictator for Dummies rule book. Here they are

  1. Control the media
  2. Create an enemy to unite against
  3. Feed the fear, so people don’t want to fight the enemy, and let the government do it

Following a bloody revolution, Ukraine is now free from its dictatorship, but violence stills exists amongst separatists who side with the Russians and those who don’t.

This flares up on Ukrainian Victory Day, when extremists take advantage of this national spirit and the debate it creates.

In 2015, Alexander and a band of volunteer creatives formed the ‘Information Resistance’, where they used their understanding of propaganda to create a piece of content to promote peace for Victory Day.

This is it (he calls it a piece of propaganda for peace).

In case you missed it, the grandfather was wearing a Russian uniform while his grandson was fighting for the Ukrainian government. This video unites both sides of the conflict through this moving inter-generational story.

Being a volunteer project, they didn’t have budget to buy media space for this, but it proved so powerful on social media (the president even shared it) that all of the TV stations requested the content to broadcast. So they received complete coverage.

In 2015, there were no violent protests that Victory Day. It was the most peaceful Victory Day, ever.

Alexander shared some inspiring lessons from his experience. These are

  1. Even if you are small, you can have a big impact.
  2. Make truth your weapon. You can’t win over propaganda zombies, people don’t listen to facts, so your propaganda should be based on the truth of feelings. In this case, love and understanding
  3. Your truth needs to go viral in order to break through the walls of propaganda

Alexanda’s not much of a Twitter fan, so I’ve not included a link to his bio here. But here’s a link to his agency’s website, if you’d like to find out more.


Funny is money, why humour is essential to your creative practice

By Sarah Boulton, from Eurobest in Antwerp

One of the talks that we enjoyed the most at our recent trip to Eurobest in Antwerp was Scriberia’s Dan Porter on the correlation between humour and creativity.

The presentation opened to the song “I love to laugh” from Mary Poppins. Porter highlighted that Disney had a fascination with characters defying the laws of gravity, Wendy in Peter Pan had to think happy thoughts to fly, and Jane and Michael in Mary Poppins had to laugh to eat afternoon tea on the ceiling. What they all have in common is that to defy gravity you have to forget the conditions that are keeping your feet on the ground.

He then rightly stated that this is the same in the creative battle; there is a constant downward pull against the weightlessness of flying. The downward pull in the creative sense is the challenges such as budgets, time pressures, expectations and the shadows of previous successes. Being creative needs an unshackling from the ground and everything holding you there, on the ground is not where the magic happens.

This is often the case in the PR world and something that we face ourselves at Fanclub often. Receiving a brief a week before a campaign goes live or integrating into a wider marketing campaign with little wiggle room pushes the creative skills, but as Porter claims the quicker you can forget this, the quicker you can start flying creatively.

The talk goes on to say that in the work place humour is often seen as a distraction, unprofessional, much like an embarrassing friend whom you are trying to suppress. Where as in reality in the creative industry and any job that requires an ounce of creativity, humour is your helpful best friend. It enables you to be inventive, gives you perspective and delivers fresh ideas.

Laughing at work is instrumental. This does not mean taking the brief or the client less seriously, it just means allowing for curiosity and comprehension. Creative businesses thrive from clients that need to appear more exciting; this is arguably the most lucrative ground for creativity. However sometimes the content can be so dry that you enter a desert of ideas, this can often leads to frustration and delirium. Here is where humour again paves the way to success, usually at this delirious point where you are almost going to give up someone will come up with a silly idea, not the idea that ultimately works, but it will provide the crucial breakthrough. In this sense briefs from a client need to be roughed up a bit before you really get to the most creative and innovative ideas, you need to get surreal and slapstick with it before you can really get to the light-bulb moment.

We can really relate to this at Fanclub some of our company values are built around this very point. “We have that Friday feeling everyday” meaning that we bring that light-hearted and fun element of a Friday to all of our work, “We are curious and inspiring”. Some of our most innovative and creative work has come about from brainstorms where “silly” ideas prompt or evolve into campaigns such as Tesco Mobile’s emoji crop circle for the Wake Up campaign which has been one of its most creative and successful PR campaigns to date, and Bondara’s Game of Bones which had us in fits of giggles during the planning and resulted in over 200 pieces of coverage.

However, humour is also a risk and needs to be harnessed cleverly and sensitively on some occasions so that you don’t leap into obscurity.

With this in mind, here are some key principles from the talk:

  1. No comedians – someone who thinks they are funny all the time can overpower creativity from the rest of the group
  2. Create a safe place – allowing for these crazy or silly ideas to be aired Don’t be mean – creating this safe place needs openness and trust
  3. Surround yourself with things that make you laugh – people, films and art can provide constant fountains of inspiration
  4. Too smart is dumb – a witty idea no one understands is worse than an idea that is not witty at all

 

Dan Porter is the Co-founder at live visual representation company Scriberia. He can be found tweeting at @ScriberianDan.

To talk to us about our creative work and our values drop us a line at hello@fanclubpr.com.