PR Interview with Jon Lonsdale, MD of Octopus Communications

This week’s interviewee, Jon Lonsdale, has 10 years’ experience as managing director of Windsor-based Octopus Communications. He explains how the PR-journalist dynamic has become more collaborative, what he looks for in new recruits and the agency’s ongoing campaigns for London 2012.

About the agency

What industry sectors does Octopus specialise in?

We’re quite an eclectic bunch. Lots of people think we’re a tech specialist because we have lots of clients there but we actually cover lots of other sectors – energy, professional services, finance, legal, public sector and more general lifestyle and consumer.

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

We’re all changing the way our clients are talked about using a combination of research, public relations and marketing disciplines. To us it’s all about integrated communications with campaigns that think big and shift perceptions rather than keep the status quo.

How do you ensure your clients get the right coverage in the press?

Well firstly by being nice, sensible, not wasting people’s time and by creating an environment to allow Octopedes the freedom to express themselves. And by reading the newspapers and getting in tune with the news cycle every day – so many agencies don’t do this in my opinion.

What do you look for in new recruits?

Humility and a real sense of humour. A genuine excitement for PR and marketing and impatience to get on quickly with their careers.

About clients

Tell us about one of your clients you are working with at the moment. How is the campaign for them going?

Well there are always lots of campaigns happening at any one time. Top of mind at the moment though is London 2012 where we are working on campaigns with both Cisco and Adecco to help them promote their sponsorships. It’s really exciting to be involved in a once in a generation event like this and see how it’s coming together – and of course to try and get your client’s viewpoint across in a crowded space.

In your opinion, what is the best coverage you’ve achieved for a client?

That’s a tough one. I would say though that I still get the biggest buzz from seeing clients get in pieces where they have no right to be through sheer lateral thinking on our part. Cheekily commenting on someone else’s news, a breaking story or a piece of pending legislation.

About journalists

How do you think the PR/journalist dynamic will change in the future?

I think it already has. So much has been written about this in our industry but my view is that the journalist/PR relationship is becoming more collaborative. We work with journalists a lot more on ideas for stories and features and are a lot more targeted and focused for clients as a result. Also the rolling news cycle, driven by online news, has changed some of the rules for us already. Stories start in a morning and grow throughout the day as more opinion/comment is added. You can’t take your eyes off things for a minute which makes things exciting.

About you

How useful do you find social media?

Very. I’m more of a listener but I think it’s our job to stay current to represent our clients properly. I don’t think you can do this without social media.

Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon?

I should do more but with a young family it can be difficult. We run our own quarterly networking beers with journalists which are always fun.

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

Be true to your roots and be honest.

[img|jpg|Jon Lonsdale, MD]
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