PR Interview with Gareth Thomas, founder of Capella PR
About the agency
What’s been happening recently at Capella?
A lot has happened since we launched. We've hired seven great staff, won six retained clients and five projects, kicked off SHINE (our staff development programme) as well as our first client satisfaction survey. Last week we held our first company offsite at the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill. Oh, and we just got nominated for two Golden Hedgehog awards, including New Agency of the Year. Not bad for six months work, we think.
What is special about the agency’s approach to PR?
We're all about service, value and integrated creativity. We have particular expertise in tech, retail and entertainment but get asked to work across all kinds of sectors. We're finding we're often called in when a brand needs to take things to the next level or cut through into new media. For example, both designer lingerie firm, Fox & Rose, and ad tech company, Marin Software, wanted campaigns that would break them into national media and generate buzz online. We've delivered for both of them.
What future plans do you have for the agency?
Our mantra is ‘think big, start small’. That's why we already have lots of processes in place you might not find in many smaller agencies. Our bank manger said he works with 20 year old companies that haven’t got the kind of structures in place that we have. We want to hit out first million of fees within three years and have an aggressive growth plan after that. We have a simple formula for achieving that goal: hire the best people, who get digital, are results focused and want to be part of a fast growing agency, then deliver amazing business outcomes for clients so they tell everyone they know how brilliant we are. So far it's working.
About the industry
Digital PR is an important aspect of Capella. How does digital campaigning differ to more traditional methods in terms of generating coverage?
Once you integrate digital or social assets into your campaigns, you're into a whole different ball game when it comes to measuring success. You can track metrics like site traffic, leads and sales – there's nowhere to hide, which we love. The bottom line though, is that you need integrated ideas. Digital + traditional is a far more potent mix in most cases.
How do you think the PR industry on the whole has coped with the rapid change to digital? What’s next on the horizon?
I think there's been a lot of hot air blown about digital and too many companies have been sold stuff they don't need. I also think that as agencies, we've all been guilty of trying to cling on to social community management briefs. Certainly, agencies can help in house departments kick things off and help with content, but usually the management of Twitter handles, Facebook pages and blogs belongs in-house, where people are better placed to give real time support to customers.
In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing the PR industry today?
Three things spring to mind: 1. An inability to prove business outcomes, not just campaign outputs is still holding the industry back. Certainly, digital is changing this, but I think the idea of measuring just coverage is rapidly going out of fashion. 2. From an agency perspective, the move towards project contracts has been a double-edged sword: it can drive creativity and keeps agencies focused on results, but it also holds back longer term relationships where deep brand knowledge tends to be acquired. 3. There is insufficient advertising money to support more quality publications and journalists. It worries me deeply that there are now more PROs than journalists.
Who are some of Capella’s most well-known, or respected clients?
We work for a lot of companies that are well respected as leaders in their fields, such as deal hunting site, HotUKDeals, ad tech firm, Marin Software or skincare specialist, Waterhouse Young or broadcast hire specialist, Procam TV. But we also work for lots of early stage, disruptive brands like Fox & Rose, Cribdd, and cloud.IQ – they may not be as well known now, but they will be!
Tell us a time you devised a campaign for a client through social media – what was the brief, the approach, and the result?
We recently helped a very early stage business that was looking to raise a significant amount of funding via crowdsourcing site, kickstarter. Their product – a light that projects an image of a bike 3m onto the road ahead of a cyclist into a driver's blind spot – was a natural fit for the passionate online cycle communities. Plus we had a short time frame, and kickstarter is well set up for social assets. So advising them to outreach via owned media such as Twiiter and YouTube made perfect sense and certainly created lots of buzz. But coverage we secured in more traditional media like the Times and Wired magazine undoubtedly also introduced the concept to a mass audience too. As is so often the case, getting the interplay between on and offline media is the key. The company doubled its funding target and the bike light is now in production.
What advice would you give to recent business start-ups on their PR strategy?
Keep the message simple. Don't get precious about being ‘unique’ – compare yourself to what already exists to give people a frame of reference. Create a stand-out point of view on the big issues in your space so you piggyback the news agenda and punch above your weight. Work with Capella 😉
Is there anything the agency is particularly experienced at when helping out journalists with their stories?
Fast access to media-friendly spokespeople, information and data. We think we’re brilliant at news jumping – anticipating the things journalists will need to move a story on.
What are your three tips/rules to building and maintaining strong relationships with journalists?
1. Put yourself in their shoes
2. Explain in a sentence the broader context and significance of the news your sharing
3. Don’t call them to ask if they got your release or expect them to use your client’s exact job title if it’s six words long!
What media do you seek out first thing in the morning?
R4 Today, BBC online and Wired.co.uk
What’s the first rule of good PR?
Know at least as much about your client as your client.