PR Interview with Babak Daemi, MD of Everlasting Marketing & PR
About the agency
What prompted you to launch Everlasting?
I was recently made redundant as marketing manager of a solar installation company. The company used PR as a major communication tool so I spent a fair portion of my time with our PR company. This meant I built strong relationships in the media, especially in my primary sector, renewables. Working with two different agencies I could see where they were missing the key ingredients to give me what I needed from a PR agency. So when I was made redundant I wanted to give it a go. That coupled with the reputation I had built for marketing and PR within the renewables sector meant I had four clients signed up to regular retainers before I had been to Companies House.
What is special about the agency’s approach to PR?
I believe what sets us apart is our ability to put ourselves in the position of the client. I always refer to the client as we, so I will say: We need to, we should, etc. I used to get frustrated by agencies that said: You should, you need to. Surely we are in this together?
To achieve this, we work very closely with our clients having regular contact and really work as an extension of the sales departments rather than an agency trying to win column inches. In addition, although not so unique, Everlasting really aims for quality over quantity.
What future plans do you have for the agency?
Having just set up, my main objective is to keep my current clients on board. I believe that if I can keep the current crop happy I will be able to grow organically through reputation. I would like to have six regular clients before the year is out.
About the industry
Everlasting was set up following your not-so-positive experiences with PR and marketing agencies. Is handling the PR for renewable energy particularly badly handled, in your opinion?
I think many of the industry's marketing people are engineers. For me, this means we have a sector that is very technical and scientific, yet has weak communicators. Our industry has a fantastic range of products; the problems they solve are of major concern and are hugely topical. Time and time again the UK press talk about energy such as nuclear and highlight fuel poverty. However, the benefits of renewable technology are over-looked. Things are getting better, just not quick enough for my liking. Although the media holds some responsibility to inform the public about the options available, we as an industry need to feed the media with stronger content.
What’s the best practice you’ve seen from a PR? And the worst?
The best practice I have seen from a PR agency is using as many relevant mediums as possible to promote a communication – while keeping it relevant, of course. Having to remind a PR company to tweet a news article they have written is frustrating. The last company I used was good at using multiple communication platforms.
As for the worst, a particular editor from our sector was very good to us with editorial and liked our comments on major news, case studies, opinion pieces etc. The agency I used at the time emailed the sales representative at the magazine instead of the editor. This may seem small, but they followed this error on the phone as well. Having worked with us for over a year, I was not happy they didn’t know the most prominent editor in our sector. For me that was very poor practice.
In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing the PR industry today?
I think the main issue facing PR agencies today is the same as it has always been: giving an ROI on PR campaigns. PR is a very qualitative communication tool. In contrast, direct marketing is very easy to analyse. For example, an email campaign has cost £250 to design, taken 5 hours to research compelling facts, and cost £500 to send. From this campaign ten leads were generated, four sales were made and £45,000 worth of business generated. Easy ROI.
PR however, tends to not generate so many enquires. The same article can generate 20 leads in the Yorkshire Post, 5 in the Halifax Courier and none in the Manchester Evening News. However, we know that the Manchester Evening News is our strongest respondent to page advertising. PR is a supportive tool to other marketing tactics and should be treated as such.
At Everlasting we have different roles with different clients, but what is the same with every client is how hands-on we get with copy writing. Whether websites, emails or adverts, all copy writing should play a PR role. This will ensure you are on top of the key messages, and of course, keep you adding real value to a business.
Who are some of Everlasting’s most well-known, or respected clients?
Everlasting's most well-known clients are within the renewable sector, so well-known to me is not well-known to most. However, the most respected clients are EcoSkies Renewable Training, Evoco Energy and Zenex Solar. EcoSkies is a leading specialist renewable training provider, Evoco Energy is a British wind turbine manufacturer and Zenex Solar is a major wholesaler of solar panels. They have designed many of the courses being taught all over the UK, something they should be very proud of.
Tell us about a recent campaign– what was the brief, the approach, and the result?
A recent campaign brief I had was to increase the profile of the sales director of a client to boost the profile of the company. The sales director is female which was a little unusual in the renewable sector.
Using the angle of being female in a male-dominated industry, I was able to obtain the director a regular column in the UK’s leading and most respected renewable magazine. This has led to invites to speak at events, give comments on our selected subject and more press coverage in the wider renewables sector.
In addition, since this campaign has been running we have seen a significant increase in response rate to our more traditional marketing techniques, such as advertising and direct marketing.
What advice would you give to recent renewable energy start-ups on their PR strategy?
My advice to any new renewable company start up-ups on their PR strategy is to know who you need to talk to. It is very important to remember it's people you deal with not the magazines or newspapers they write for. If someone wanted something from you and forgot your name, or didn’t know what you do, you would not be too keen to help them. Your ego would be dented and your opinion of the person would reflect that. Journalists, reporters and editors are the same.
Is there anything the agency is particularly experienced at when helping out journalists with their stories?
Everlasting is reliable. Something quite unique. If you need a quote or comment from someone in the industry we will get it. Our scope of clients across the supply chain mean we can come from every angle. We have a manufacturer, wholesaler, installer and training provider. This means we get a good scope of answers within deadline, and I always edit to ensure it says what is needed to represent both the client's views and the editor's desires. Often, clients waffle or miss the point. This can cost the article or comment being published.
What are your three tips/rules to building and maintaining strong relationships with journalists?
1. Empathy (I was told this at university and thought it was rubbish, but it is true)
2. Network (Go to awards nights and events, especially those run by publishing companies)
3. Reliability (The quality and timing of your content is essential).
If you could ask a journalist one question out of the ordinary, what would it be?
To what extent is your moral compass or personal opinion involved in your writing? And I want honesty!
What media do you seek out first thing in the morning?
I have Google alerts on lots of the news I want. Secondly, Twitter is fast becoming the best place to break news. I follow journalists, reporters and politicians that cover the topics that are relevant (that I know about), so if anything happens it soon spreads online and helps me stay up-to-date.
Name three guests you’d invite to a dinner party and why.
Arsene Wenger – I am an Arsenal fan and I would really like to speak to him about his philosophy and his history in economics and business.
Malcom X – an amazing man, with so much to say.
Muhammad Ali – who wouldn’t want him at their dinner party?
What’s the first rule of good PR?
Relevant and concise information is key.
Concise, because a shift in communication has seen a growth in Twitter and newspapers like i (The Independent). This is a sign of the times; the internet has broadened our horizons giving us the opportunity to have three or four hobbies rather than one or two. However, the internet has not added time to our day so information needs to be more concise with as little waffle as possible.
Relevant, for the obvious reason and everything is duplicated online. If it's relevant Google will find it and expose it.