PR Interview with Stu Campbell, Owner and MD, Fire PR

Launched just over two years ago, Fire PR is a consumer lifestyle consultancy. Owner and managing director Stu Campbell tells all, from sex toy clients and super-brands, to social media being as necessary as loo roll.

About the agency

What areas of PR does the agency specialise in? We’re a consumer lifestyle PR consultancy and we offer integrated programmes that span the main brand-driven disciplines of PR. Our current clients include mobiles, gadgets, shoes, jewellery, charity, photography, sex toys(!) and luxury holidays. An eclectic mix! Our team has a wide spectrum of experience, so we’re pretty much able to tackle any PR brief. I believe that PR silos don’t offer the best returns for clients. So, we’ve purposely veered away from positioning the business as a tactical specialist within a particular genre of PR. Two words: Boutique and Generalist. What is unique about the agency’s approach to PR? I’m not sure if it’s that ‘unique’ – we are, without exception, always 100% honest with our clients and ourselves. We focus our efforts on achieving higher impacts in the most effective way. We’ve never desperately chased new business and have turned down some pretty impressive budgets due to unrealistic expectations or flawed business plans. Ultimately, we’re in it for the long haul and I’d rather not sign up clients for a quick hit on the bottom line – that’s ultimately going to de-motivate our people and cost us more in the long run. So, solid and steady growth is certainly the way forward. What do you look for in new recruits? The three core things that we look for in people are; realism, appreciation and honesty. Miss one of those and you won’t last long here. To us, these are the most important three factors and they impact on our clients directly. Fire PR is not a sweatshop by any stretch of the imagination – we just don’t put up with laziness or individuals who dump on their team members. We expect people to show organisation, creativity, punctuality and personal drive. But then surely that should be the norm in any PR firm?

About clients

Tell us about your recent appointment by Science Photo Library. What campaigns do you have planned? We’ve initially been briefed to handle a rare photographic exhibition being held at The Royal Albert Hall. The collection of images, many of which are previously unseen, looks at the life of Yuri Gagarin. It’s running in partnership with RIA Novosti, the leading Russian news agency. As you’d expect, we’re handling all media relations, press previews, live broadcasts, social media and influencer relations. What has been your biggest PR/communication challenge? This is such a hard question – as the challenges of running a business far outweigh executing a successful PR campaign. The most challenging client we have (in terms of their offering) is our sex toy company – it certainly gets a reaction when we pitch it to press. Funnily enough, the most conservative journalists are the ones who request the sauciest review products (the media seeding and product review programme for this one is treated as ‘highly confidential’ for obvious reasons). Which campaign are you most proud of? Nothing will top the ‘Brightening Up London’ campaign I led whilst working in-house at Orange. Working with the consumer team at Ketchum, we achieved blanket national coverage in every broadsheet and most red tops, plus all of the big 5 TV broadcasters, on Christmas Eve 2003. But then again, we had just broadcast a huge union jack, a lion, a dragon, a thistle and a unicorn onto Buckingham Palace! That’ll take some beating.

About you

Your previous work history includes many top ranking UK PR agencies including BandandBrown and Bite Communications. What was the best piece of PR advice you learnt whilst at these consultancies? Working at BandandBrown taught me to be creative, to think in a joined-up manner and most importantly how important online PR would be in the future as part of the wider mix. Bite exposed me to ‘super-brand’ PR and heading up the Apple account was challenging. In fact ‘gruelling’ at times, which made me appreciate the importance of organisation and drive. The team continually pulled miracles out the bag in a professional, calm and determined way. I’m also exceptionally lucky to have worked at Orange UK and to have been part of the company when it was a top five super brand. I suppose the main thing I learned there is not to take things for granted and to keep focused on the end result. It also made me realise that huge budgets aren’t necessary to reach the top and often the smallest budget can reap the biggest rewards. Do you use social media? If so, how useful do you find it? That’s like asking someone… ‘Do you use toilet paper?’ We use all sorts of social media tools and channels as integral parts of our day and more importantly for our client work. I couldn’t imagine operating without it. I think social media within the context of PR should be fully holistic and not viewed as a stand-alone discipline. I’m not into this culture of ‘digital’ ghettos all spouting… ‘I’m a digital guru. Look at me’. Clients want PRs to get results, and those results should be focused on achieving an end result and the PR’s skill is deciding where the catalyst to that end result should be. It’s the outcome that’s most important – not the tactic or channel used to achieve it. Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon? We tend to network online for ease. Things like LinkedIn and Twitter often return better ‘connections’ than schlepping off to some awful pub in Soho, to stand around for an evening, mainly with other PRs who you know anyway, blowing smoke out their arses and comparing their ‘spheres of influence.’ Seriously though – we do network for clients, we attend conferences, seminars and exhibitions on a regular basis. Global shows like Mobile World Congress are invaluable and we attend them with vigour. Our largest client is a mobile handset manufacturer and we’ve built many invaluable relationships through attending this kind of event. [img|jpg|Stu Campbell] [lnk||_blank|Fire PR]

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