PR Interview with Chris Hides, MD, M&C Saatchi PR

Our PR interviews profile an agency head to find out more about their work, their clients and working with the press. Chris Hides is managing director of international advertising agency M&C Saatchi PR and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business. Here, he discusses his agency's simple approach to PR, what he looks for in new recruits and the T-Mobile royal wedding dance campaign.

About the agency

M&C Saatchi is a global agency with offices in several locations. What areas of PR does the agency specialise in? We do both consumer and business to business PR. In terms of sectors, we specialise in retail, consumer tech, food and drink, personal finance and telecoms. Our clients include Orange, T-Mobile, Hyundai, Dixons Retail, Giovanni Rana, Travelex, Network Rail, 3M and JJB Sports. What is unique about the agency’s approach to PR? We believe in Brutal Simplicity of Thought. We know that it is easier to complicate than to simplify and we also know that simple messages enter the brain quicker and stay there longer. That’s why we place great emphasis on the planning process and making sure that we have simple strategies for addressing very complex issues. This is all driven by our Central Strategy Unit, a team of 30 planners who work with our account teams to define our PR strategies. How do you ensure your clients get the right coverage in the press? By following three simple principles: 1. Know the media. Great coverage starts with our team’s understanding of the media: the journalists and bloggers, their interests and needs, the topical issues and the role for social media. 2. Know your client. Only by fully understanding the job we are trying to do for our clients can we generate the right results. 3. Keep it simple. The best ideas are the simple ones. If it isn’t possible to effectively describe an idea in one sentence then it probably isn’t going to deliver the coverage. What do you look for in new recruits? As an MD overall I’m looking for two things outside of the technical skills to do the job. 1. Can they complement our existing talent – we don’t necessarily want a team of identikit PR consultants. We’re looking for a mix of talent. The nature and role of PR is changing and you now need people that have different skills whether it’s good old news generation, social media understanding, events and experiential or integration. Our success so far has definitely been built on developing a team of people that can tackle pretty much any brief. 2. Do they believe in our business – we are a young, energetic and ambitious business and it’s an incredibly exciting place to work, because we are producing great work and attracting new business. Anyone that joins us has to share that excitement and want to play a part in building something special. We’re not interested in nine to fivers.

About clients

Tell us about the clients you are working with at the moment. What sectors are they in, and what campaigns do you have planned? We do a lot of work for all of the Dixons brands which include Currys, PC World, PC World Business and Pixmania. This is part retail and part consumer technology. We do a lot of news generation for them along with major brand building campaigns. In the last couple of years we invented Nerdic, a new language for tech addicts, developed the first gadget prenuptial agreement – the e-nup – and published a list of endangered technologies. At the same time we have been helping the business showcase its estate of newly refurbished stores, recently arranging for Darth Vader and a legion of stormtroopers to visit flagship outlets. T-Mobile is another major client of ours and we’ve just finished working on the royal wedding dance campaign which generated 20.5 million views on YouTube, 270 pieces of coverage including national television in five countries around the world and more than 250,000 tweets. It’s the second campaign we have worked on with them, having previously carried out the PR around their ‘welcome home’ advert which saw people being serenaded as they arrived at Heathrow’s T5. We are currently putting plans together for the next campaign which will go live in the summer. 3M is a great example of the kind of business to business campaigns we are running. We have been working on launching a new business of the company’s that creates digital out of home advertising technologies. We ran a pan European campaign to drive awareness of the business and its services and to generate sales leads for them. The campaign was based around a major report into the trend of ‘Gladvertising’, Minority Report style technology that is being developed by advertisers and retailers. As well as news releases the report provided the basis for several round table debates around Europe. To date the campaign has increased sales leads by 300%, delivered 163 pieces of coverage across Europe and secured an opportunity for 3M to pitch for a global job with a company that is listed among the world’s 30 biggest businesses. Is there a potential client you’d love to work for? Right now it would probably be HTC, the handset manufacturer. It has done a fantastic job of quietly building a great media following based on innovation and fantastic products. It is just starting to break through and it’s the kind of brand journey that I would love to be involved in. Which campaign are you most proud of? It is hard for us to see beyond the recent T-Mobile royal wedding dance campaign. We had a very short lead time to deliver a huge amount but we were able to play a critical role in making one small piece of content genuinely go ‘viral’. We had front pages of newspapers, primetime news and chatshow TV coverage, national radio coverage and unprecedented social media buzz – even Prince Harry and Justin Bieber posted the video on their Facebook pages. Once in a while you pull off a campaign which manages to touch most of the people you know and it’s an exciting thing to be a part of.

About you

Are you involved in any other projects? I am also a board director for Surfers Against Sewage. I am a keen surfer and have been working with the charity for around 18 months. This year they became M&C Saatchi’s pro bono client for 2011. Working with the advertising team here we have just launched a campaign for them which has been covered across national print and online and is now working its way across social media. It was carried on the front page of The Independent website. Do you use social media? If so, how useful do you find it? Absolutely. I use LinkedIn and Twitter (@chides) and I find them both incredibly useful. For me Twitter has become both the source of creative inspiration and insight and a fantastic place to extend media relationships. As well as pitching ideas, I find my media contacts on Twitter can be incredibly supportive of our campaigns. I recently tweeted the T-Mobile campaign which was re-tweeted by one of my followers, Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC, and that led to wider media interest. Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon? Yes I do, although I think it’s important to be selective. My next one will be the AAR pub quiz next month. [lnk||_blank|M&C Saatchi PR] [img|jpg|Chris Hides, MD]

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