PR Interview with Emma Noye and Rebecca Riley, PR Account Managers at White Space PR

About White Space

What is special about the agency’s approach to PR?

Rebecca: We believe PR should be all about having conversations. The term ‘PR’ now means so much more than just ‘public relations’. It’s about simplifying and then amplifying messages so that the right people hear and see what you’ve got to say. With the growth of social media, there’s so many more channels that organisations can use to communicate their messages so we do our best to stay on the ball and think of all the ways we can to help businesses get to their audiences.

Emma: Also, we’re fortunate to be in a position to offer our clients a complete communication ‘one-stop-shop’. Supported by an entire creative design studio, we can tackle marketing, PR and social media all under one roof.

What qualities do you look for in new recruits?

Emma: Our recent recruitment process saw us looking for team members who had the right personality, tenacity and drive to support our existing team and ultimately help drive the business forward. Qualifications aren’t necessarily important, but we want to see someone who is passionate, can inspire those around them and give confidence to their clients.

What has been the biggest challenge for the agency?

Emma: There’s no doubt that, like many businesses, we found the economic downturn difficult. But, due to lots of hard work and pulling together as a team, we’re now in a very strong position. With a number of new recruits onboard and numerous contract wins already, 2012 is shaping up to be a big year for White Space.

About clients

Tell us about one of your clients you recently worked with.  What was the company’s brief, your approach and the result?

One of our recent successes has been the Ipswich Central Business Improvement District (BID) Renewal campaign.

The crux of the ten month campaign (running from March to October 2011) was to help Ipswich Central retain their BID status and be voted into a second five year term. Every PR message had to be tailored and be in keeping with the renewal objectives, as well as promoting Ipswich in the best light possible, as the main objective was getting people to say yes. All PR was aimed at businesses, demonstrating what a great job Ipswich Central do.

We achieved over 120 pieces of print and web coverage, with over 15 radio interviews being conducted. The advertising spend equivalent achieved was £140,000 and the BID voting results were fantastic. Ipswich received the highest ever turnout for a BID renewal (70% of businesses that could vote did), and of those that voted, 93% voted yes. We also secured the backing of Sir Stuart Rose, the ex-M&S chairman. This was the first ever BID scheme that Sir Stuart had publicly backed. 

As a result of the BID being renewed, it will see an additional £3.76m worth of investment be brought into Ipswich between 2012 and 2017.

How do you balance the use of social media and traditional PR in your work?

Rebecca: I think social media can be used by every single company, regardless of your size, service or sector. Traditional PR will always have its place but, when so many journalists are on social media and using these platforms to find content for their articles and features, it is important for companies to maximise the opportunities that social media presents by making sure they can be found in these places. More of our clients are expressing an interest in getting to grips with social media, so there’s no doubt that it is an essential part of PR. That said, we’re not afraid to tell our clients if we don’t think social media is right for them – we don’t believe in being on social media sites just for the sake of it.

What has been your most memorable work for a client?

Emma: I think the Ipswich Central campaign was one of the most memorable because the client received such a positive return on their investment with us and it’s a great example of how successful an integrated campaign can be as we also handle all of their marketing activities, so the two complimented each other perfectly.

What advice would you give to recent business start-ups on their PR strategy?

Rebecca: First off, I would recommend actually having a marketing strategy in place and incorporating PR within that, as the right PR can work wonders for you. Then I’d think about what messages I want to get across and to whom so that communication can be tailored accordingly. Although it may be tempting to send the same press release to your local newspapers and your trade media, the journalists at these publications will be looking for very different things, so I think it is always important to keep that in mind.

About journalists

Which areas of the press do you communicate with the most?

Emma: As most of our clients are local, we deal with predominantly local and trade press on a daily basis for our existing clients and this covers print, TV, radio and social media. However, there are obviously peaks and troughs depending on what campaigns we’re implementing and which target audiences we are pitching to.

Which media outlets or journalists do you find you work with the most often?

Emma: As we speak to the regional media on such a regular basis, we’ve built-up exceptionally good relations with the local media in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk. We have two fantastic local papers, the East Anglian Daily Times and the Ipswich Star, who we work very well with.

How do you build and maintain strong relationships with journalists?

Rebecca: We want our clients to be top of the list for all journalists when they are planning their editorial, whether that’s local, national or trade. I think journalists appreciate the personal touch and they can always tell when you’ve done your research on them and their publication, so it’s important to think about exactly what they’d like to receive and how to maximise the chances of the story being used. The main priority is to make journalists’ lives as easy as possible and only send them stories that are of real interest so that we don’t waste their time.

About you

How did you get into PR?

Rebecca: Up until I went to university, I’d actually always wanted to be the other side of the table as a journalist! Whilst I was at university, I developed a keen interest in all things PR and social media so decided to pursue a career in this field once I graduated.

Emma: Coming from a media-focused family, I studied marketing and PR at University and it has always seemed like a natural career choice for me. I joined a PR agency as soon as I graduated, then spent a year working in-house running a marketing department for an international software company. I was then approached by White Space 18 months ago to come on-board and handle the PR side of things, and haven’t had time to breathe since! 

What media do you seek out first thing in the morning?

Rebecca: I always eat my breakfast in front of BBC News and try to pick up a copy of the local newspaper to read on my way into work.

Emma: Twitter is the first thing I check before I even get up, as I know it will give me instant information so I can be aware of any breaking stories. I make sure I read the two regional newspapers as soon as I get in the office, as well as checking Twitter periodically throughout the day.

Name three guests you’d invite to a dinner party and why.

Rebecca: Firstly, Michel Roux. I’m addicted to shows like Saturday Kitchen and Masterchef and I think his cooking is incredible. Hopefully it would mean he could do some of the cooking at the dinner party, too! Secondly, Lindsey Kelk. Her books have made me laugh and cry, and I’d love to know where she gets her inspiration from. And thirdly, Michael McIntyre – I think he’s absolutely hilarious, and I’m sure he’d add plenty of entertainment to the party.

Emma: My first guest would have to be the Queen. I am fascinated by the Royal Family and would love to see what she’s like in person. Plus she might introduce me to her grandson, Prince Harry! I’m sure she’d get on really well with my next guest: Karen Brady. As a young businesswoman, Karen has set a benchmark for what women can achieve – particularly in such a male-dominated world such as football. And lastly, I would have to choose Max Clifford. Love or loathe his clients, I think the stories he could tell would be both fascinating and shocking in equal measures.

If you could work anywhere in the world, where would you go & why?

Rebecca: New York. I’ve only been once but I’ll never forget it. It had such a buzz about it, a great energy, and there was always something going on and something to see – I don’t think I would ever get bored of it.

Emma: Funnily enough, I’d choose New York, too! The people, the culture, the city itself – not forgetting the food and the shopping – means that it would be the experience of a lifetime.

Do you attend networking events?

Rebecca: We’re really keen to network as much as possible whilst we’re trying to build up the profile of White Space PR. We’ve attended various business exhibitions and a few different networking groups – I think going to the same event two or three times is plenty of time to tell whether the events are worthwhile.

Emma: Networking is a necessary part of building the White Space PR brand. Suffolk can be quite tight knit at times so it’s vital to ensure you are talking to the right people, at the right time and networking is a great platform to facilitate this.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

Emma: The best piece of advice I’ve been given is: “make the most of every opportunity.” I try to apply this to both my personal and professional life at all times because you never know where these opportunities might lead.

What’s the first rule of good PR?

Rebecca: I think real PR is as much about listening as it is about talking. Communication is a two-way street and that’s what the right kind of PR relies on.

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