“I hate agencies who privately mock their clients, laughing about how much money they’ve screwed out of them – that attitude sickens me; if you really care about your client you never do that.” says Louise Findlay-Wilson, who talks about how Energy PR maintains long relationships with clients.
Energy PR has been shortlisted for two CIPR PRide awards this year. Congratulations. Tell us about your shortlisted campaigns.
Thank you. I’m so pleased for the teams involved. One nomination is in the small budget category and is for our work with My Nametags, the name labels company. It’s tough to come up with a creative way to talk about labels but the team really cracked it with the ingenious idea of leaving 500 teddies around the country, with name labels on them, to test their importance in protecting treasured items! We left them in churches, sports centres, cafes, pubs, parks and city centres in 25 locations around the UK. The labels carried an individual name for each bear plus a campaign phone number so that we could monitor how many bears were found and returned. It gave us real statistical data backing up a great human-interest story about the public spiritedness of the British people. Plus, thanks to a fun video package of the story, including filming of the ‘bear drops’, we secured not only masses of media coverage and social media sharing, but also 35,000 video views – all for the humble nametag!
The second campaign is in the consumer relations category and features our work for the bi-folding door and window manufacturer, Origin. Doors and windows are a niche topic, but we extended the appeal through consumer research which looked beyond the functional, to the different things people want from their homes as they move through different life stages. Drawing on the data we created 5 homeowner profiles. This ‘buyer’s timeline’ approach elevated Origin to the heart of a broader homeowning subject and secured national, regional, consumer interest and broadcast coverage, including a big slot on Talk Radio’s Home Rules show.
In the 22 years that Energy PR has been in business, which clients have you been working with the longest and how long has it been?
That’s a tough one as we’re known for our long client relationships so there are quite a few names we could mention. For instance, Easyfairs, the huge events company has been with us for over 12 years. Norrie Johnston, who has a recruitment business was first a client in 2000, with his recruitment company, Executives Online, and is still one today with his latest recruitment business, Norrie Johnston Recruitment. RRC Training, was our first client, way back in 1995, and we’ve worked with them on and off ever since. If a client leaves us it’s usually for practical reasons – they’ve needed to cut back on budget, they’ve had a major corporate restructure, sold the company or decided to take things in house. We always understand and stay on very positive terms, so they feel able to return when the time is right.
What’s your advice for keeping clients happy?
Be passionate about their business. Always be honest and fair – and of course, do great work for them!
Ultimately you can’t go wrong if you genuinely care about their business as much as they do. I hate agencies who privately mock their clients, laughing about how much money they’ve screwed out of them – that attitude sickens me; if you really care about your client you never do that.
I’m sure you’ve also built up some great relationships with journalists in that time too. What are your top three tips for maintaining relationships with the press?
Understand and respect them – always read, watch or listen to the media you’re targeting. Only offer them good stories (which means being prepared to push back with clients sometimes) and be easy to work with.
Your website contains an advice centre for businesses looking to work with a PR agency. Why do you think businesses need this information?
While some businesses are very experienced about working with PR agencies, for others it’s unfamiliar territory – or perhaps they haven’t put their PR out to pitch for years. Yet, the better the PR brief and pitch process, the more likely they are to end up with an agency which delivers for the business. So the advice centre helps them create the brief, run a pitch process and know what to look for when choosing an agency. It also gives practical advice on measuring PR – as any decent agency worth its salt wants to be properly measured!
You have a slogan of ‘profit not just profile’. How do you help your clients see the effects of PR?
For a start, we root our programmes in our clients’ business objectives. We never like a situation where the client ‘just wants some PR.’ I want to know why? What’s the business plan? What do they need to achieve to deliver the plan – more web traffic, longer dwell time on a site, a bigger database, shifting attitudes among certain influencers, winning three major clients, increasing average order value, more distributors, investment, more customers, new partners, better staff attraction and retention? Our PR programme is then carefully devised to deliver against these. We then put measurement in place to demonstrate delivery. We quickly disabuse our clients of the notion that PR is just ‘a nice to have.’
What do you think will change for the PR industry in the future?
As someone who was doing PR pre-internet (yes, sadly, I am that old) I know how radically and unexpectedly things can change and therefore how difficult it is to answer this. Whatever I say is likely to be wildly off the mark but here goes! Measurement will get smarter. Individuals will fall into smaller defined niches and will curate their own information even more. With an even bigger proliferation of content, trusted news sources and influencers will become more important. I also think that in an increasingly isolated, tech-enabled world, great face-to-face activity will become more influential. Whatever changes, there will be a role for the PR industry – after all at its heart it is all about understanding audiences and knowing how to reach and influence them.