PR Interview with Angie Petkovic, MD of apt marketing & pr
About the agency
What industry sectors does apt pr & marketing specialise in?
We started out over 12 years ago specialising in hospitality, leisure and tourism and this is still a buoyant sector for the team, but we now have a diverse collection of B2B and B2C clients across many sectors; typically the common link is that our clients are service providers.
What is special about the agency’s approach to PR?
We believe in a ‘joined up’ approach across integrated PR and marketing. Considered PR is just part of the toolkit needed to help drive business for our clients. What is important is consistency of message and brand across everything in the marketing mix, in accordance with the campaign proposition. If we promise something to a journalist we will always deliver on that promise.
How do you ensure your clients get the right coverage in the press?
We do our research to find the right audience ‘fit’ and understand what the journalists are currently working on. We look at how to overcome media saturation with the ‘so what’ factor and are experienced in all aspects of dealing with the press. We respect the job the journalists have to do and we work with them to position our clients in a way that is advantageous.
What qualities do you look for in new recruits?
Energy, attitude, humour, innovation and common sense are my key elements. Added to which I want them to be up-to-date with current affairs, follow the news daily, be able to link things together and to also have a good grasp of grammar and the English language. Many prospective applicants are shocked at the variety of our client portfolio, which offers diversity – and a challenge – on a par with that of any large city-based agency.
Can you list some of your most well-known, or respected clients?
SOHO Coffee Co. is one of our key client accounts and we love working with them. We have been with them for a number of years and we are delighted to have been part of their growth going from a handful of coffee shops when we started to the dynamic global player that they are today. We can also name-drop luxury travel specialist Abercrombie & Kent for which we orchestrate regional PR across the UK, events and also national PR and trade campaigns for their key products and messages.
Tell us about one of your clients you recently worked with. What was the company’s brief, your approach and the result?
Together with a strategic rebrand, on-pack promotional campaigns with brand partners and day-to-day PR management, we have also been the driving force behind the survival of BABTAC’s (British Association for Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology) 80-page bimonthly members’ magazine, Vitality.
The magazine was not delivering adequate return on investment and was muddled in layout and style. It was a drain on our client to produce in-house, both in terms of manpower and production costs.
We conducted a four way pitch with some of the leading customer magazine publishers in the UK, always believing that the magazine was too good an untapped asset to fold quietly. One publisher instantly demonstrated the right personalities, skills, vision and commercial insight and as a result, the two issues that they have published since their appointment have been a triumph.
The magazine’s editorial now reflects serious issues and addresses matters that BABTAC members feel are important, whilst being a bright, exciting ‘must’ read. The new Vitality is embracing the needs of BABTAC’s client membership, responding to industry trends and improving public perception of our client’s industry ‘cause’.
How do you balance the use of social media and traditional PR in your campaigns?
There is no substitute for a personal relationship in PR and what we’re finding is that while some journalists still prefer the phone, more and more are using tools like twitter to contact us directly, or want pitches in 140 characters or less!
At the other end of the PR process, if social media tools are right for our clients we will ensure they can dedicate the resources to maintain them to support PR activity, so that they don’t stagnate. It’s like every aspect of marketing really, it always comes down to personal preference and not everyone ‘buys’ in the same way; whether we’re talking to a journalist or speaking to a consumer, we consider who we’re targeting, before choosing the right medium.
Is there a potential client you’d love to work for?
True to my roots, I’d love to be handling Britain’s destination PR. As a country I feel many exciting opportunities in the run up to this summer’s events have been missed – a lot has been left quite late. If only I had a time machine and could get Boris Johnson’s ear…
What has been your most memorable campaign?
Where do you start with a question like this – don’t they say you’re only as memorable as your last campaign? We believe that one of our unique points of difference for our diverse client base is our ability to network clients together where there is synergy. We’re passionate about sport at apt and passionate about the value of sports sponsorship in today’s economic climate – both in terms of PR and brand recognition. Very recently our hard work in securing sponsorship for the famous Cheltenham Cricket Festival came to fruition as we brought the new commercial sponsors, including three of our prestigious clients, Abercrombie & Kent, Brewin Dolphin and Mercedes Benz together around a table (at Montpellier Wine Bar, another client of course!) to leverage their sponsorship investments through wider strategic partnerships with each other.
Which areas of the press do you communicate with the most?
All of them – it does depend on our client’s objective but it is about selling in the key elements, making it newsworthy and relevant for the press whether that be a glossy consumer magazine, B2B trade title, a local TV news desk or social media debate.
Which media outlets or journalists do you find you work with the most often?
Too big a list to mention, that’s the exciting thing about our job, the media outlets are infinite and varied every time. No one story gets the same distribution.
Naturally we have built our key contacts over a period of time and this allows us to know what a lot of the journalists look for and how we might help them get their story in the most efficient way. We are well known with our local reporters and editors as well as with the owners and writers of the key business titles relevant to our clients.
What can you offer to journalists seeking a story on one of your clients?
We often offer holidays/family trips with some of our clients and product reviews. We invite the journalists to a whole host of our client events from Racing Breakfasts at a Gold Cup Trainer’s yard to hot air balloon launches at the crack of dawn; ensuring that we introduce them to all the relevant people attending and also follow up post-event to make sure they have everything they need. We are generous with what we will do in return for good guaranteed coverage. We also understand that the ‘picture desk’ is often a thing of the past and it is still in-house, it is under pressure, so we often send our own photographer and furnish journalists with post-event images.
How do you build and maintain strong relationships with journalists?
First and foremost by being reliable and honest. We understand the job they are doing and we look at how we can best support them. We often get a big hit by simply being timely or responding to an immediate reporter’s request. We make sure that our media contacts know what we have to offer them and so help them do their job, on deadline. Making it relevant is our mantra!
In your experience, do you think the relationship between journalists and PRs is always harmonious, or is it more of a love-hate affair?
I think that it all comes down to respect for each other’s job. Yes, we have encountered the rude ones as I am sure they have encountered rude PRs, but overall I think it’s about how you approach people and how you work with them. We certainly work to ensure the process is as harmonious as possible. Our PR team will always try and match a journalist’s readership and often have an actual forward feature theme in mind with our pitch so our press alerts or phone dialogues are rarely in vain!
What media do you seek out first thing in the morning?
For me, my day starts with the news on Radio 4. Very often I’ll catch Farming Today beforehand – it’s amazing how much that sector’s news impacts the rest of our world. The Times online is my next port of call when I get to my desk.
Name three guests you’d invite to a dinner party and why.
Salvador Dali – I would have loved to be his muse and I would love to have him to dinner as I am sure his conversation would be challenging of the others, would challenge convention and would make for a colourful evening.
Nelson Mandela – For the memories he would share of the changes in his country as a result of his sacrifice; I would love to hear whether what has happened is really what he wanted to happen and whether, given his life again, he would do it all again the same way?
Boris Johnson – I think Boris is one of the most intelligent men living today. I know I would enjoy the way the conversation twisted with him there and how he and the other two would vie for overall control of the conversation.
I would like my co-host to be my dad (he died a few years ago) as he was a very intelligent man and would throw challenge statements into the mix and ensure that the conversation kept going at a pace to the point where none of us would believe it was morning and we would have to set another date to carry on!
How involved are you with social media?
As a company we are very involved – we need to be as we are advising our clients on what they should be doing and how to make the best out of each medium. Personally I use Linkedin. I haven’t started tweeting, myself, as it wouldn’t be sustainable and this would go against the advice I would give to my clients! My team have built a great presence on Twitter for the company though and it has proved to be a brilliant relationship-builder.
Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon?
Yes all the time – they are the life blood of our own industry and that of our clients. Over the years I have learnt to choose events which follow a variety of formats as this varies the attendees greatly. I am a member of the Gloucestershire Chamber of Commerce which is incredibly prolific under its current director. One of our clients, The Daffodil Restaurant, a fabulous restored Art Deco cinema, runs the hugely successful ‘Cheese Club’ where ironically the rule is no swapping of business cards! The artisan cheeses are always great and I’ve built great relationships at these! I’ve also got networking dates in my diary for the forthcoming Professional Beauty show as well as the Best of Britain and Ireland travel trade event at NEC.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Well over the years I have had many pieces of advice and many of these have stuck. There are three that stick with me though.
1) You don’t know how far you can go until you have gone too far – this has held me in good stead many times as I have pushed against a perceived boundary only to find it’s not there.
2) If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got! – This one too says change is vital, as is courage to look at change.
3) Finally – never say anything bad about your competitors or indeed anybody else as this will be your downfall in years to come. That old chestnut of ‘what goes around comes around’ and it’s amazing how often I have seen that from afar over the years.