PR Interview with Julie Malone, Joint Managing Director of SLG Marketing Ltd

Julie Malone of SLG Marketing shares with us the agency's 30 years' worth of PR experience, which is fresh from being awarded Agency of the Year at the Construction Marketing Awards. She discusses the challenge of measuring the value of PR and how sustainability and green technology are at the forefront of the construction, engineering and industrial markets right now.

About the agency

What industry sectors does the agency specialise in? We are an integrated marketing and communications agency specialising in the construction, industrial and engineering sectors. We have PR teams within the agency that are experienced in each sector, ensuring that our clients benefit from having only specialist PR professionals handle their accounts. What is special about the agency’s approach to PR? SLG is different to most agencies in that we have a history that spans over 30 years – something which not many agencies can claim. Over these 30 years, we have built up an unrivalled expertise in our chosen fields, witnessing the changes in the market sectors and guiding our clients through the tough times with great success. We believe that one of the most important points for any business to consider when looking to appoint a PR agency is that the agency understands and appreciates the company and its market through and through. Our experience has allowed us to develop an intricate knowledge of our specialist sectors, and we apply that knowledge when devising and rolling out PR campaigns for clients. How do you ensure your clients get the right coverage in the press? Achieving the right type of coverage need not be difficult. Our process involves setting realistic targets and measuring our output against those targets to gain a real understanding of our success. Our first priority is to listen to our client and understand who they’re trying to reach and why before starting to marry the information our clients have with the needs of the journalists in order to secure editorial. Of course, this is not a definite approach and we are happy to adapt our methods as we go on to suit individual client needs. In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing PR today? Since digital platforms began to play a bigger role in PR, there has been an on-going discussion concerning the ‘correct’ way to measure PR. Measuring the value of PR has always been difficult – it’s not simply down to column inches, and success can be gauged in many other ways such as reputation management, maintaining the client’s profile and exposing the right people to the client’s key messages. Although the sectors we work in have been conservative in their approach to digital PR, we are starting to see a change in the way people communicate and this requires an accepted method of measurement across the industry.

About clients

Can you list some of your most well-known, or respected clients? We’re proud of the company we keep and work with some of the industry’s most successful and respected businesses, from Polypipe Civils and Polypipe Terrain who are leading experts in water management and drainage, to Bison Manufacturing and Xtralite Rooflights, two more market-leaders in their respective fields of precast concrete and rooflight glazing. Tell us about one of your clients you are working with at the moment. What campaign do you have planned? Sustainability and green technology are at the forefront of the construction, engineering and industrial markets right now, and we’re currently building on these topics to deliver relevant, topical and effective campaigns for our clients. We’re fortunate to have won a good slice of business in 2011, and we’re just at the beginning stages of campaigns with a number of clients. Some of these clients have never enjoyed a PR service before and now the New Year has come, I’m looking forward to when they can really start to see the benefit of the PR service we roll out. Furthermore, I’m excited to see how we can change their business for the better. How do you balance the use of social/digital media and traditional PR in your campaigns? The social media explosion in recent years has seen some big brands jump in head first and sign up to as many digital channels as possible in order to increase their profile. However, this has often backfired when those digital platforms have not been understood or researched correctly. We feel that digital channels may not be right for everybody, so we work on the basis that we should assess each one against the client’s specific needs. That involves finding out if and where the conversations are taking place, and then advising our clients on the benefits of joining in that conversation. What is your most memorable campaign? We’ve developed many campaigns over the years that we’re proud of and each one has been unique in its own way. More recently, we’ve had great success with The Polypipe Run, a six-month campaign that began with a simple concept of driving a Mini through Polypipe’s Ridgistorm-XL large diameter pipe, and was developed into an all-encompassing campaign that included trade shows, charity dinners, football games, a sponsored cycle ride and a competition to win the very same Mini that ran through the pipe. The campaign amassed over £300,000 in coverage, supported a 20% increase in sales of the product and has been shortlisted at the Construction Marketing Awards for Best Campaign over £25k.

About journalists

What can you offer to journalists seeking a story on one of your clients? It is difficult to give one single answer to this question as every journalist has different needs. Our clients are at the forefront of their industries and many boast award winning manufacturing facilities headed up by industry experts. We can offer access to the knowledge and expertise these people hold in order to help journalists create a relevant, accurate and insightful piece of journalism. We always welcome enquiries from journalists and strive to accommodate them as best we can. How do you build and maintain strong relationships with journalists? There is often a stigma attached to the relationship between journalists and PRs, but it’s one we work hard to avoid. We count former journalists as part of our team and through this we understand the dos and don’ts of media liaison. Journalists don’t want to be bombarded with sales-like material or generic information that everyone else is offering – they want a decent piece of editorial that appeals to their readers and contains good, solid information. Providing that type of material reliably and on time is the key to maintaining great relationships. In your experience, do you think the relationship between journalists and PRs is always harmonious, or is it more of a love-hate affair? It’s different depending on who you speak to. The frustration may arise when one doesn’t understand the other. A good agency will understand a journalist’s needs before approaching them with information and vice versa. I think we’re all now at the stage where we appreciate that we do need each other and we feel that we have a good understanding of the journalists we work with. How do you think the PR/journalist dynamic will change in the future? The way we communicate is constantly changing, and I feel that there is a lot to be said about conversing with one another on digital platforms. Only a couple of years ago, our main form of communication was via email, however emails can quickly be overlooked or deleted. Now we have the option to talk with one another on social media platforms, which allows us to understand and appreciate more about the person behind the job title.

About you

What media do you seek out first thing in the morning? It’s essential that I watch Breakfast News in the morning so as I have a good idea of the current news stories of the day. Name three guests you’d invite to a dinner party and why. Ray O’ Rourke (Chairman and Chief Executive of Laing O’Rourke) – Ray has built an amazing company from humble beginnings, a real inspiration. Christine Lagarde (Head of the IMF) – I admire her for holding responsibility of one of the most scrutinised organisations in the world at the moment. Finally, a strong woman is in charge! She must have some interesting stories to share. David Beckham (Footballer) – No specific reason other than he looks good! Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon? I understand the importance of networking and building relationships, and I often attend media events which always prove very useful in terms of gaining new contacts. What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? Simple – always be fully prepared. [img|jpg|Julie Malone]

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