By Lina Prestwood, producer of the FT's "Culture Call' podcast

Anyone can make a podcast - but with 900,000 series and 30 million episodes available on Apple as I type how do you make a good branded one, one that will actually cut through? After years of working in both television docs and on award-winning branded content in both video and audio, here are some brief thoughts, questions and tips for brands to consider before pressing record.

  1. A podcast is not your field of dreams; just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come - in a cacophonous market where discoverability is the main challenge your podcast has to really give the audience something they can’t get anywhere else. What is your brand’s superpower to exploit? Once you have established that, figure out what you want your podcast to achieve and how you will super-serve your audience (for, indeed, you must)  in order to hit that target.

  2. Clarify your proposition again and again and again until you can articulate it in one sentence. It will inform EVERYTHING you do from top to bottom whether it’s booking guests, writing questions, choosing music and marketing your work.  Think about at least one format point that gives you, your guests and your listeners a guiding principle for the conversation. From Desert Island Discs to Reply All to TED Radio Hour all have clear format points and a clarity of editorial focus that their audience know and love. Be specific, be niche - that will win you fans in podcast land.

  3. Create a clear sonic identity for your series and treat it with the care that you would any other part of your branding -- think of your favourite podcasts and chances are you will be able to hear them clearly in your head. (Hopefully it goes without saying that you need to ensure your podcast’s tech is up to the job, and that you need to edit your podcast properly -  inarticulate ramblings and unsatisfying tangents can occur in even the most intelligent of conversations, no doubt, but lose them or lose your audience). While we are here: cough up a few hundred quid for your own theme music and some stings exclusive to your brand and treat your producer to access to a music library - it doesn’t have to be expensive. Check out Epidemic, for example.

  4. Whether it’s Serial, Jessie Ware’s Table Manners or The Guardian’s Today in Focus, all good podcasts  - i.e. the ones you genuinely look forward to updating in your feed and happily share -  are, at their core, entertaining stories and so get a producer who values editorial pre-production as much as technical production. By researching your guests and putting genuine thought into your discussion and scripts ahead of time you are respecting your contributors and your listeners - and your host will come off as an absolute star; the women I work with at the FT on Culture Call are brilliant interviewers as a result of the remarkable journalistic integrity they bring to the table. Culture Call is an extension of the FT brand - it’s hosted by two FT editors and brings listeners behind the scenes every now and then but ultimately our listeners stay for the fact that they have two smart as hell hosts talking to the people who are pushing culture forward.

  5. Before you start, ring-fence your branding clearly - will you mention it once at the top and leave it? Half way through? Or even just in the artwork and not at all in the audio? However heavily or lightly your brand features please don’t try and subtly drop it in ninja style - podcast audiences readily understand that brands pay for great content but won’t take kindly to feeling like they’re being tricked into listening to an advert.

Lina Prestwood is a former documentaries commissioning editor at Channel 4 and executive producer at Virtue where she was responsible for the branded content of brands such as Mazda and Lexus, including the viral film First Flight for Vodafone (which won a couple of Cannes Lions and a Lovie and was watched over 4m times on YouTube). Her audio documentaries about Fathers and Sons for Mr. Porter took gold for Best Branded and Podcast of the Year at the British Podcast Awards in 2017 and she currently produces Culture Call for the FT.

Listen to Lina's podcast by clicking the image below.

Here are our favourite books

As parents will know, it's World Book Day, today. To celebrate, rather than coming into work dressed as our favourite character, we've decided to share some of our favourite reads with you. Enjoy.

Amy Hall: 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit', by Judith Kerr

I have always been a voracious reader and as a child I got absolutely lost in books, so it’s impossible to pick one all-time favourite. But one book that has always stayed with me and that I read over and over again as a child was When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr.

I think most people have encountered and been touched by one or more of Judith Kerr’s beautiful stories at some point in their lives and I am so enjoying reading all of the Mog series to my two young girls. But Pink Rabbit was just so enchanting to me. It’s frightening (especially knowing as I did that it’s based on Kerr’s own life), thrilling and emotional and takes place before the start of the second world war so the tension is palpable. Quite a big theme for a 6-year-old (which is when I first read it) but so sensitively handled. The rest of the trilogy is no less brilliant.

Fabian Castellani: 'Utopia for Realists', by Rutger Bregman

I can safely say that this work from Rutger Bregman gave me a little glimmer of hope for our world. It’s a huge claim, but once you’ve read this, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

The way our society is structured isn’t conducive to living our best lives, but many of us don’t understand what we can change or are told that the solutions we have aren’t suitable by everyone from business owners to politicians. Rutger argues very convincingly for Universal basic income, a 15-hour working week and open borders, as well as presenting solutions for homelessness. And these aren’t just simple ‘oh let’s try this’ ideas; they’re fully researched concepts that have actual studies to back them up (including a study by charity Broadway to tackle homelessness in the City of London by simply giving homeless people grants).

It will honestly open your eyes as to how we can create a ‘utopia’ aka the lives we truly deserve, whilst still in-keeping with the notion of capitalism we’ve come to accept as ‘normal’.

Hannah Kalyan: "21 Lessons for the 21st Century", by Yuval Noah Harari

If you’re looking for an easy-read or a feel-good story, this is not the book for you. But, what Yuval does provide is refreshing clarity on the todays most debated and complex issues, something that can feel incredibly rare in a world dominated by fake news and click-bait headlines.

While you might need Alexa to help you define a couple words (or every other word in my case!), it is a must read for the new generations who have the tricky job of navigating the moral and political implications of biotechnology to human irrelevant in the face of Big Data algorithms.

Emilee Senchyna: "The Outsiders", by S.E Hinton

I have to admit, I am not a big reader… Nothing against books, I just have a short attention span - so any book I am going to read needs to entice me within the first chapter.

Thinking back to the books I have read, 'The Outsiders' by S.E Hinton has always had a special place in my heart. The story follows a young Ponyboy Curtis as he details the conflict between two rival gangs divided by their socioeconomic status: the working-class ‘Greasers’ and the upper-class ‘Socs’. I started out by watching the film and maybe it was the hunky 80’s star-studded cast that got my attention – but after watching, I was hooked. After finishing the novel in record time, I was then one of those people who now claimed, ‘the book is better than the movie’.

Lucky for me the year after I read the book – it was chosen as the novel study for English class, so you could say I was an expert in all things Greasers and Socs. Till this day, I can recite monologs from Ponyboy and still shed a tear up when Jonny passes away (sorry for the spoiler). For a long time, I even wanted to get ‘stay gold’ tattooed on me, and who knows maybe I still will.

Adrian Ma: "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 

I’ve always enjoyed ‘magical realism’ since reading Louis de Berniere’s (of ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ fame) Latin American Trilogy as a teenager. In a world where science rules, it’s comforting to escape to a place where mysticism and greater forces play with the fate of the story’s characters. It’s a place where in a post-rational (or ‘Post-Truth) world, we may once again find ourselves.

To me, there are three books that really stand out in this genre, Isabelle Allende’s ‘House of Spirits’, a beautiful tale that follows four generations in Chile in which characters have paranormal powers, Salman Rushie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’, a tale about a generation of Indian children - born on the hour of India’s independence - who develop supernatural talents, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One ‘Hundred Years of Solitude’. Of these, Marquez’s story about the fictional town of Macondo, which transforms from a place of magic, to one that, after generations of contact with the modern world, falls into a ruin is my selection for this year. This story paints a powerful cautionary tale for the world in which we live today, where we’re discovering the true cost of economic progress to our natural environment.

Emily Barnes: "On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous", by Ocean Vuong

Given my indecisiveness, I don’t think I could pick a favourite book of all time. But a book that I read recently which I really loved was “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous" by Ocean Vuong. The author is actually also a poet, and the structure of the novel reads like a poetry collection. It’s about a gay immigrant boy in the US, written as a letter to his illiterate mother; compelling and honest on the complicated relationship between a mother and son. I really loved it and it was like nothing I had read before.


Welcome to the team The Chemistry Group

One of the books that has most influenced me is called “From Good To Great” by Jim Collins, in which he studied the traits of high performing companies. Chapter Three is titled, “Who… Then What”. The basic premise of this is that “good-to-great leaders” begin transformation by finding the right people, then figuring what to do with them. In other words, the right talent in the right roles is the engine of high-perfoming companies, over and above anything else. It’s something I absolutely believe in.

So too, does our latest client The Chemistry Group. It believes that everyone should have the opportunity to be brilliant at work. And it has the behavioural and data scientists, and technology to help match people to roles by predicting their performance with stunning accuracy.

They liked us, too. Roger Philby, CEO at The Chemistry Group, commented, “Fanclub really impressed us as an agency that shares both our business values and ambition to help everyone thrive at work. Fanclub was able to demonstrate its expertise with a clear strategy to convey a compelling narrative and build our position as a trusted talent strategy partner to today’s top business leaders”.

Good chemistry, you might say. Onwards to great work, then.


Hacking PR to supercharge e-commerce & digital

We know that PR has more to offer the digital world and it’s been our mission over the last few years to bridge this gap.

We have invested in our knowledge, experimented with our clients, created new processes, adopted new tools, and have spent a lot of time listening to digital marketers. What we discovered is that PR has the potential to supercharge digital sales. It just needs to be engineered in the right way.

We’ve taken what we’ve learned over the last few years, looked at what’s coming up in the future and have published a guide to hacking PR for e-commerce and digital sales. It includes

  • an explanation of how the ‘death of the linear customer journey’ has impacted the role or PR in sales
  • an overview of new channels of influence
  • practical advice on how to optimise PR to deliver more value across organic and paid search, shoppable social media and voice
  • an overview of the role of algorithms for content discovery and what it means for PR and communications professionals.

It’s free to download. Just click here

You can thank us by giving us your feedback at hello@fanclubpr.com, or drop us a line about anything else you’d like to hear from us.


"A breakthrough in measurement" and other predictions for PR in 2020

Predictions. Granted, everyone's at it at this time of year and you may be tired of seeing the same old things year in, year out. But we've taken the time to look at current trends in culture, technology and media to bring you our Top 5 predictions for 2020. Happy new year.

TikTok on the clock, but the party don't stop, no

Predicted by Emilee Senchyna

Video-sharing social app Tiktok blasted into the spotlight this year, becoming the most downloaded app of 2019. Focused on the Gen Z generation, the app has brought a whole new generation of influencers. With the audience being in their teens or early 20’s this is a platform we will need to be aware of in 2020. Unlike Instagram, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have – the app rewards and amplifies creative and unique videos, in turn making people constantly deliver engaging content.

Brands are already dipping their toes into the app, with brands such as Apple, Nike and Fenty beauty all using TikTok to promote their products in a unique and visually compelling way. Instagram will still take first place in 2020 being the leading social platform, but with TikTok’s success only increasing, brands will need to adapt their strategies to meet the growing audience.

PR agencies will have to expand their expertise

Predicted by Hannah Kalyan

The role of PR agencies is changing. A 2017 study shows that 87% of professionals believe the term ‘public relations’ will not describe the work they do in five years. Gone are the days of simply writing and distributing press releases. While traditional media relations is still relevant, we must increasingly get creative when looking to secure coverage for our clients. Resources once spent on more pitching should be shifted to content marketing and social. PR will always be important, but its impact is amplified when coupled with digital and social activity. For those looking to get ahead of the curve, you must find ways to disrupt and innovate internally. If you don’t currently have paid social capabilities for example, explore staff’s passions, invest in their education and build the practice from within.

Brand Saturation = Less Voice Infatuation

Predicted by Fabian Castellani

2020 will be the year brands make voice a lot less sexy. We’re going to see an influx of brands that have waited for others to test the platform before they dip their toes in too. But an influx of voice-based products that people don’t want or don’t know exist will result in customers turning off to voice. Let’s hope brands can leave voice alone until they can add real value to the platform.

Brand transparency in the era of fake news: scrutiny increases

Predicted by Emily Barnes

With the spotlight on fake news as an urgent issue, there is an increasing push for regulation as a means to fight misinformation- with a need for PR to safeguard clients  using a watertight strategy for proactive and reactive reputation management.

The surge in scrutiny extends to the heart of brands themselves, which are increasingly challenged by consumers across all media platforms, as well as by employees with sites like Glassdoor. With the conversation around the impact on the environment and ethical practices increasing every day, brands are being held accountable for their choices.

The single solution to this is transparency; consumers want to know everything about what the buy and engage with- where it comes from, who is involved in producing it and the implications of consuming it.

For PR, this means that trust proof points are of particular significance for clients,  but equally that honest communication around mistakes and the quest to improve are fundamental in building brand credibility and importantly, brand affinity.

Finally, some meaningful PR measurement

Predicted by Adrian Ma

2020 will bring a PR measurement breakthrough. Technology already exists on a small scale for brave brands to more accurately measure PR attribution; where spend can be matched to website visitors. This will go two steps further. One, we’ll see attribution to sales rather than visits. And two, scale. The last point is important because from scale, we can establish benchmarks. This is where things will get really interesting, as we’ll be able to measure campaign performance against these benchmarks. Expect a decade where meaningful PR measurement will be the key driver of investment.


It's a smashing win!

Last night, our suffragette-inspired Broken Windows campaign for Harvey Nichols, with TBWA won the Fashion, Beauty & Retail category at the SABRE EMEA 2019 awards.

If you’re wondering what all the hype was about, here’s the video to explain it all.

We’re chuffed, as you can imagine. There were over 2,400 entries from across the whole of Europe, Middle East and Africa, and in our category, we were up against entries from Rimmel and Prada, among others.

It was a collaborative effort, led by a brave client team at Harvey Nichols (Deb, Alistair and Kasia), and the incredible team at TBWA London (Jarrod, Tom, Andy, Grace, Sara and Anna).

And last of all, huge props and thank you to Dr. Helen Pankhurst ✊


Welcome aboard, Stroke Association

We’re pleased to be able to share some exciting news with you. Following a competitive pitch, we’ve been appointed by the Stroke Association work with them team to launch a major new campaign and its first TV advertising.

Stroke is the fourth biggest killer in the UK. Anyone who has witnessed this up-close will tell you that the effects can be devastating. But it’s not given the priority it deserves.

We’re here to help the Stroke Association strike back. 2019 is going to be the year when you will see and hear this issue elevated to something that you’re motivated to take action on.

For us, this is a significant opportunity. If you’ve followed our work over the last year, you’ll have seen that we’ve been more involved in delivering purpose-led work that creates real impact (through our work with Plastic Oceans UK and Harvey Nichols). This is an opportunity for us to use our craft to create a positive impact on the world, and we’re going big.

Photo courtesy of the Stroke Association.


Introducing Janger: A hanger but better

We’re pretty chuffed to be able to share the news that we’ve won a pitch for Janger. That’s not a typo. The Janger is the ultimate holiday hanger. It uses less plastic in manufacturing so is eco-friendly; super compact; and for retail trade, allows shops to display 20% more stock.

It also looks really cool. When was the last time you bought a hanger in a packet like that one 👆? Never. Exactly. Our friends over at Brand & Deliver have done a bang tidy job creating something that really stands out at retail display.

It’s a pretty nifty innovation in what is an otherwise staid category, and we’re proud to be supporting it as it launches to a consumer market. Plus, it means that we get loads of free samples, so we can stuff more into our wardrobes at home, rather than having our clothes scattered on chairs in our bedrooms (well… we live in hope).


Welcome Davnet Doran

I first met Davnet when I started working at Consolidated Communications (which is now part of Four Communications). She was more senior to me and earmarked as a rising star in the agency. Then she left us and quickly worked her way to up to become a director at Cake, delivering work that turned us green with envy.

Since then, she’s gone on to do more great things at Unity and M&C Saatchi PR, as I followed two steps behind in her wake at other agencies. Clients and colleagues who had the fortune to work with her described her to me as a “Leg end” (sic) and “a class act”, because of her uncanny ability to bring the best out of people, and offer empathetic and valuable counsel to board-level clients.

I’d always harboured a mix of respect and jealousy for her career, but finally I can lay rest to the latter and nurture the former, because Davnet’s joined the team as our non executive director.

Davnet will work closely with me to ensure that Fanclub retains its unique people-led culture as we grow, and will also help us deliver strategic high-level consultancy to our clients.

You can probably tell that I’m pretty chuffed to be finally working with Davnet. London’s PR industry doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to looking after its people. I’ve high hopes that with Davnet’s help, we’ll be able to show the industry that a culture that puts people first can lead to commercial success and creative excellence.


Tips for managing stress and imposter syndrome

By Adrian Ma

When it comes to mental health, PR doesn't get a good rep. In various reports it ranks in the top 10 most stressful careers out there.

Throughout my career, I've seen the casualties first hand. It's not pretty. I wanted to do something to safeguard the team's mental health, and here at Fanclub, we've been working with our in-house coach Tash (pictured).

Here she is to tell us a bit about her role, and what she does for us.

What’s your role here?

My role at Fanclub is about helping people to be the best version of themselves. I work with to them remove any interference that may be stopping them from achieving their full potential: from dealing with high pressure situations; to finessing client relationships and more smoothly negotiating team personalities.  Essentially it's about bolstering people's emotional understanding and awareness so they can feel increasingly strong, confident and comfortable within themselves to make the right decisions and excel at a higher level.   

What qualifies you for this? 

I worked in PR for over twelve years at companies including Hill & Knowlton and Freuds' before becoming a professional coach, so I understand the many trials and tribulations of the industry and the issues that affect people within it.  I have also put in the hours and gained an advanced practitioner qualification in Life Coaching and NLP with the Phil Parker Institute as well as doing additional courses to improve my knowledge with the Co-Active coaching school.

How do you do what you do? 

I always start of from the basic assumption that I'm OK and that the people I'm working with are OK too.  It's my view that labelling people is inherently counterproductive and that if employees are stuck or always butting heads with the same problem, then something about the way they are dealing with it needs to change, and I help facilitate that change.  As the saying goes: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So I get people to look at their issues in an entirely new way, to gain new ideas about how to work with and overcome them.

In your career, and in your practice, do you come across common issues in people who work in PR?

Absolutely, managing tricky client relationships, dealing with high stress situations and imposter syndrome are all very common. 

What advice would you give them for dealing with it? 

In terms of managing tricky client relationships it's key to put yourselves in their shoes.  We get too caught up in "me, myself and I" and can feel we are being attacked and disrespected by people.  But in most cases it's just not the case and many clients are just acting into the "script" of how they feel they should behave. What's key is to start giving people the tools to move away from reaction and into understanding.

With managing high stress situations it's about clearly identifying your triggers so you can become hyper aware of looking out for them and understand it's a pattern that can be hacked, not a helpless loop.

And with managing imposter syndrome it's about communication, communication, communication.  It's my belief that this so called epidemic of our age is caused by the strange social syndrome of feeling that talking about our insecurities is a weakness.  The sooner you have a group of employees together saying 'me too' the sooner you have a more relaxed, happy workforce that feels understood and part of a group, not like imposters. In fact, group coaching is the latest tool that I'm working on building out for my business clients.