PR Interview with Raman Sehgal, owner of Ramarketing
About the agency
What’s been happening recently at Ramarketing?
We have had a very busy six months that have involved winning three CIPR awards (including ‘Outstanding Small Consultancy’), taking on more experienced consultants and doubling the amount of clients under our belt. At the same time, we have also refined our service offering in line with the changing market environment. We’ve also recently donated money to local charities in the North East, which is something that as a small, growing company we are really proud of. If we’re making money, we can share the wealth with our local community – it’s as simple as that.
What is special about the agency’s approach to PR?
First and foremost, I think people like working with us. That may sound a little soft but being able to build close and genuine relationships with our clients has helped us build an incredible level of loyalty. Furthermore, the relationship survives and gets even stronger when things don’t go to plan. And any agency that claims every campaign goes to plan is telling porkies.
The other main area that differentiates us is that our consultants are fully mobile so are there when and where our clients need them to be. We like to integrate ourselves fully with our clients so we often work within their office environment to get a great grasp of what they’re all about and get a feel for their culture. We have a small, but perfectly formed office but this is only used for creative thinking, collaboration and meetings so we can keep our costs lower than the competition. This is a major factor during these tough times. It ensures our clients get value for money, our people are paid well and we make a healthy and sustainable profit.
What future plans do you have for the agency?
Now that would be telling…
We just need to keep doing what we’re doing at the minute. I’ve seen loads of creative companies grow too quickly and fold just as quickly as they can’t manage growth. We certainly don’t just work with anyone, for anything, which keeps our growth sustainable.
About the industry
You lecture at Northumbria University advising final year students about the PR world. What knowledge do you think new recruits should enter the industry with?
More than ever, it is very difficult for graduates to get jobs out of university. Experience, initiative and personality are the things I look for. I’d happily hire a student with perhaps a lower degree classification who has natural ability when it comes to communication, a great sense of humour and has demonstrated a desire to get some experience under their belt, rather than an upper level student with all the qualifications in the world, but no personality. Obviously it is possible to find a graduate with both. Recruits need to be able to write and communicate clearly, as a given, but personality and experience are the criteria that can differentiate.
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 the industry has coped better than it thinks. We’re always so negative and hard on ourselves but after centuries of doing things a certain way via traditional routes, the last decade is not a great deal of time.
One thing I’ve heard people talk about is how PR has become less influential as traditional newspaper sales fall. This is nonsense. We are in an era of content creation, both online and offline, and who better to create and recycle this content than creative PR people? PR people who embrace and thrive using multimedia platforms and, in addition, integrate themselves with marketing and advertising gain the best results possible. Content is king and as PR people we have always known this; it’s about time everyone else caught up with us.
In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing the PR industry today?
As per above. The ability to not only adapt but demonstrate to clients how real-time campaigns can work successfully across an array of different platforms to gain maximum coverage and exposure.
Who are some of Ramarketing’s most well-known, or respected clients?
We tend to work in the healthcare and technology area. Major pharma companies include the likes of SCM Pharma and The Specials Laboratory but we also work with some pretty high-profile consumer brands such as Natural Hero.
Tell us a time you devised a campaign for a client through social media – what was the brief, the approach, and the result?
For Natural Hero (sells natural sports recovery and well-being products) we devised a very simple but extremely successful Twitter campaign. Working with Women’s Health UK who has thousands of followers on Twitter, the idea was for them to tweet their first ‘get fit for 2013 competition’, then followers simply had to retweet and the prize was a set of Natural Hero products to five lucky winners. Given the amount of followers Women’s Health has the amount of retweets was phenomenal and, in turn, increased our clients’ followers. We have calculated that in the three days it was running, at least 200,000 people were exposed to the brand via Twitter from the competition.
What advice would you give to recent business start-ups on their PR strategy?
We have worked with some brilliant start-ups. As a start-up, business journalists will want to know who you are and what you do, especially if it’s interesting. If you’ve not got the budget to use a PR freelancer, at least pick up the phone and get in touch with your local business news desk. Clear communication is vital and you must make sure your key messages are consistent from day one.
Is there anything the agency is particularly experienced at when helping out journalists with their stories?
What we have found very successful is providing expert, relevant comment. As our clients are very varied we can offer spokespeople from experts in accessibility, to recruiters, to crafting professionals, and we get it to them quickly; we live in an impatient world. Journalists tend to appreciate the time we take to understand the angle of the piece, the detail of our work and love our accompanying high-res images!
Products for review is also a speciality; as Natural Hero is a relatively new brand we are constantly being requested from publications to send samples down. This often leads to us sending further sachets to events such as the Vitality Show (circa 3,000 attendees), and we have a close relationship with the Stephen Gerrard Foundation, so sponsor a lot of events through them. This exposes the brand to not only a large audience but the right one.
What are your three tips/rules to building and maintaining strong relationships with journalists?
1. Pick up the phone and don’t hide behind emails.
2. Do not waste their time.
3. Read what they write about on a daily basis to ensure your stories are pitched correctly and ask them what they want.
If you could ask a journalist one question out of the ordinary, what would it be?
What annoys you most about PR people?
What media do you seek out first thing in the morning?
Name three guests you’d invite to a dinner party and why.
Jessica Ennis – for obvious reasons… And she seems lovely!!
Henry Winter – brilliant football journalist for The Telegraph.
Mark Wahlberg – genius behind Entourage!
What’s the first rule of good PR?
Always act as an ambassador for your company/clients; don’t bad mouth!