PR Interview with Pieter Graham, account director at Threepipe Sport
About the agency
Tell us about what Threepipe’s sports division does and the services it provides.
Threepipe Sport helps its clients to successfully leverage their sporting connections through a combination of earned media, social media and live events. We specialise in product PR, talent PR, brand events, stunts and news generation, social media engagement, digital content development and grass roots initiatives.
Are any of your clients involved in the London 2012 Olympics?
We work with Hornby Hobbies, Official Product Producer for the Olympics. As part of this work, we support Hornby’s product range through placement across media titles, whilst promoting its overall involvement via project development/support, trade outreach and working with ambassador Lizzie Armistead. The aim is to help promote Hornby’s role in a very crowded 2012 environment, as well as emphasising the fact Hornby is a British company that will leave a lasting legacy post Olympics.
Additionally, we have worked with Westfield Stratford from a more corporate PR point of view. We helped it promote its corporate entertainment spaces which are available over the Olympic period, emphasising the centre as one of the leading Olympic destinations.
Overall though, the Olympics has been an opportunity for many clients and we have worked with them to understand how they can best use that opportunity.
How do you ensure your clients get the right coverage in the press?
At Threepipe, we pride ourselves on ensuring that our client gets the right coverage. To do this, it is all about the process and understanding the client’s needs and what they will be judged on from the start. With this in mind, we would put together a strategy to achieve press coverage which directly appeals to the target market, achieving the level of brand profile needed.
Once targeting is in place, it is all about working with media titles to understand what would enable them to cover your story in more detail and how key messages can be easily incorporated into the piece. As we all know, a simple byline at the end of a piece of coverage no longer does the trick. We need to be thinking about readers using search engines or social media to find more information and making sure we direct them to the right place to ensure strong brand engagement.
Can you list some of your most well-known, or respected clients?
Threepipe works with a really broad range of clients. On the sports side of things we work with the likes of Warrior Sports, which has signed a deal with Liverpool, The Football League and Hornby. As a business we have a wide breadth of other clients including Leapfrog, Stella Artois, Rachels, Seven Dials of Covent Garden and social media clients including Rio Tinto and Ericsson.
What are the main issues for your clients in the sports industry right now?
I think for many clients, to date, it has been how to make sure their message is heard in one of the most exciting summers of sport we have ever seen.
The plethora of sporting activity has, of course, brought the spotlight on to sport as a whole, but with that big budgets have started talking. With our clients it has been how to make a considerable amount of noise without that budget if involved in the Olympics, or how to make your voice heard at all if not.
More broadly for the sport industry, the issue is really how to ensure that tangible results are gained from whatever work is taken on, whether that be through sales, consumer engagement or general awareness.
How do you balance the use of social media and traditional PR in your work?
At Threepipe we have long prided ourselves on our integrated approach. We have our own social media division who work across a lot of our clients as well as holding their own. I’m a firm believer that the lines between PR and marketing are becoming more and more blurred and this is actually of benefit to the business and the consumer in the long term. Social media is an integral part of this as it allows direct conversation with consumers and, even more importantly, direct feedback. Additionally, it allows clients to create a following for a brand or product, which is an incredibly important part of taking traditional PR and adding long term value.
Which areas of the press do you communicate with the most and which media outlets or journalists do you find you work with the most often?
Our level of communication with journalists across the board is very strong, it really depends which project we are working on and who is applicable to speak to. For instance, for the Olympics we will speak to the relevant journalist and on football-related content we will speak to another. Overall, we communicate with the nationals a lot and also have great blogger relations from our work across football clubs through the Football League.
What can you offer to journalists seeking a story on one of your clients?
It really differs. For some we have events, others we have talent and for others, products. Quite often it involves all of the above, as well as access to the client in terms of providing expert comment in specific areas.
How do you build and maintain strong relationships with journalists?
First of all, it is about understanding what a journalist wants, what you want and how you can work together. Personally, I like to bounce ideas off my best contacts and at the same time give them the exclusives they want as a thank you in return.
Other than that, regular contact obviously helps, along with knowing something about them; for example, what they like outside of work. At the end of the day, work is important but people have other lives. If you know a bit more about your strong contacts, they know more about you.
In your experience, do you think the relationship between journalists and PRs is always harmonious, or is it more of a love-hate affair?
Let’s be honest; some journalists hate PRs. I’ve been told by journalist friends outside of work that they put the phone down immediately if a PR calls. For these people it might be that they have had their fingers burnt a few too many times and put all PRs in the same boat. Much like any profession, there are good and bad PRs, along with good and bad journalists. If we can work together it is of so much more benefit in the long term.
What media do you seek out first thing in the morning?
My morning usually starts with a look at BBC Online, followed by the regular Metro, Shortlist or Sport on my commute. When I’m in the office I pick up The Guardian but can’t do without my regular early morning fix of Teamtalk.com…
Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon?
I do attend a lot of networking events, and the next one I’m going to is actually being hosted by Threepipe on October 5th. We have our own conference titled: “The Games have left town. What next for sport in the UK?” with panellists such as Adam Paker, chief executive of Commonwealth Games England and Tanya Veingard, head of sports sponsorship at Lloyds Banking Group. If you would like to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Name three guests you’d invite to a dinner party and why.
Michael Johnson – I was a big sprinter as a kid and this guy was a living legend.
Vincent Cassel – I love foreign cinema and think he is pretty damn cool to be honest.
Irina Shayk – Russian model and girlfriend of Cristiano Ronaldo, obviously just there to discuss Ronaldo…
If you could work anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Not the most adventurous, but I’ve always dreamt of living in Madrid. I love the city and the culture and have long thought my ideal job would be working for Real Madrid. Who from the sporting world could resist the enigma that is Los Galácticos?