PR Interview with Sue Murray, managing director of Mango Marketing

In today’s PR interview we catch up with Sue Murray, managing director of Mango Marketing, specialists in education, training and development and wider public sectors. Sue tells us about the agency’s approach, the need to understand the requirements of editors, and why her experience as a teacher has been important to her success as a PR.

About the agency:

What industry sectors does the agency specialise in?
Mango Marketing specialises in the education, training and development and wider public sectors.

You recently had some success in the CIPR awards, what aspects of your approach to PR do you think led to this achievement?
The belief that public relations should go beyond media relations underpins everything that we do. An understanding of who and what constitutes our clients’ ‘publics’ helps us to provide a full service that becomes an extension of their business rather than a peripheral service. This appreciation and knowledge of our clients’ target sector helps ensure that we develop their relationship with the wider target audience in a way which supports their objectives and, ultimately, consolidates their position in the marketplace effectively. This mixture of stakeholder relationships, industry partnerships is then supported and consolidated by targeted media coverage; this is the approach that we find the most effective for our clients and makes best use of our collective skills, which ultimately means that we enjoy our roles and take even more pride in our agency’s work.

How do you ensure your clients get the right coverage in the press?
We know that successful coverage relies on several factors; timing, the quality of our relationships with our target media, a quid pro quo approach to media relations and a thorough understanding of what is appropriate to the audience of a particular media. Building good relationships with editors to understand their copy requirements, knowing what is news in our sectors and what we like to think of as our subtle tenacity are all more successful than a blanket approach. In short, we take the time to know what everyone wants and then we try and deliver on it.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing PR today?
As we all know, marketing and public relations tends to be the first thing that is cut from companies who are facing financial challenges. Equally, media titles are struggling to sell advertising space and we have noticed recently the slow shift towards an increasing amount of media wanting to see PR contributors buy advertising to secure coverage.

About clients:

Tell us about a client you recently worked with. What was the company’s brief, your approach and the result?
The world’s largest technology in education show is BETT, which attracts approximately 30,000 educators from across the world. We started managing the public relations for the show in 2005 and continue today. The first show in January 2006 attracted nine per cent more journalists than the previous year (2005=187, 2006=204).

We were also given the objective of supporting an increase in the number of visitors attending the show. Emap hoped to attract 28,000 visitors. Visitor numbers increased from 27,015 to 28,776; an increase of 6.5 per cent. We also worked hard to increase awareness of the show by working with the media titles aimed at school leaders. The number of school leaders rose 14 per cent.
In terms of our success with journalists, 231 incidences (190 pages) of coverage were achieved pre-BETT, of which Mango Marketing wrote 75 pieces of tailored editorial for target publications.

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, secretary of state for education spoke at the show. Working with the national press we attracted attendance and coverage from the following national media. Every national newspaper and broadcaster bar The Times (although they did attend the event) published a news item about Gove at BETT, including BBC News, Sky News, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.

Each year we work hard to evolve the PR support and improve the level and breadth of PR support offered.

Which campaign are you most proud of?
Our drive to constantly evolve the PR support for BETT is probably something we are most proud of. However, the fact that we provided PR support to another client, SMART Technologies, for ten years before they took the work in-house, is something we recognise as a mark of our passion to achieve for all our clients.

What are the main issues for your clients in the education industry right now?
The perception of budget reduction, the delay to the new national curriculum, greater freedom without guidance and the UK’s economic uncertainty are all affecting our clients. Traditionally, education sector suppliers have responded to government policy initiatives when developing resources, just as education establishments have used policy to guide their purchasing decisions. The freedom that the government now speaks of is often seen as a lack of guidance, and establishments are wary of investing in new resources until they have some clear guidance and direction. This hesitancy is a major issue for many of our clients.

About journalists:

Which areas of the press do you communicate with the most?
The answer to this question is very different for each client and varies over time. We do a lot of work with the trade media but are always looking to the national press for appropriate opportunities. We have always had a very good response from the regional media for news information on schools, colleges and learning centres.

How do you build and maintain strong relationships with journalists?
We strongly believe it is about really understanding the journalist, their audience and objectives. This focus ensures that we are as committed to their sector as they are and that we are always aware of the latest developments and activity within each market.

The education sector, as an example, has many audiences – primary, secondary, colleges, universities, subject-specific, special educational needs to name just a few. We often hear stories from editors that they are copied in on a circulation list of press information from PR agencies that is just not appropriate. They may receive a release on a new learning resource for literacy, aimed at nursery education, when they are a magazine aimed at secondary school maths teachers.

In our sector, each piece of press information must be tailored to each media title and its audience.

In your experience, do you think the relationship between journalists and PRs is always harmonious, or is it more of a love-hate affair?
I think there is a perception of it being a ‘love-hate’ affair. However, I believe that if you respect the editorial team and understand their needs then it is easy to build strong and positive relationships

How do you think the PR/journalist dynamic will change in the future?
The way we communicate is constantly changing and digital media and social media is playing a larger role in this. Platforms like Twitter enable us to find out more about the journalist as an individual and therefore give us a better understanding of what they are looking for.

About you:

What led you to make the change from teaching to PR? Do you think your experience as a teacher makes you more successful when working with the education industry?
The education sector is unique and has specific requirements, driven and augmented by high-profile political imperatives, which require tailored messaging to ensure both relevancy and, ultimately, success. The sector is very sceptical of companies who attempt to enter the market making no effort to understand it, appreciate its requirements, or to “speak its language.” It is therefore important for us to understand the sector at all times and ensure that the media information we create for our clients not only meets their business objectives but also “speaks the language” of the medium’s audience. Having been a primary school teacher I am more able to understand the sector’s challenges and needs. Clearly the rest of the Mango team were not teachers but they all immerse themselves in our target audience’s sectors to truly understand the issues which enable us all to tailor our clients’ news information to be relevant and appropriate.

Are you involved in any other projects?
We support approximately 25 clients, generally on a retainer basis. However, from time-to-time we do run specific campaigns to promote new products or services.

How involved are you with social media?
Everyone at Mango Marketing is heavily involved in social media. We have run a training course for our clients BESA and their member organisations. We keep up to date on a daily basis on all changes and new opportunities that this communication tool offers.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Recruit people before you need them.

[img|jpg|Mango Marketing team at BETT 2012]

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