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PR interview with Jess Champion, head of PR at Distilled

What’s been happening recently at Distilled?

It’s been an exciting few months with too much going on to choose from! Recent highlights include our Future of TV project and the launch of our new DistilledU masterclasses.

What future plans do you have for the agency?

Distilled started as a web development business in our founders’ living room back in 2005 and it’s amazing how far we’ve come since then. 2014 already promises lots of exciting new clients and, as we move away from traditional SEO and into more integrated marketing solutions, I’m excited to see how our creative, content and promotional offerings will continue to grow from strength to strength.

What is special about the agency’s approach to PR?

Distilled has a really solid background in SEO and search marketing and we really ‘get’ digital. We believe that the future is ‘online first’ and everything we do reflects that. We also have the luxury of housing some seriously impressive creative talent, which means we’re able to devise truly integrated campaigns which span creative, PR, content marketing and blogger outreach.

How does Distilled structure its teams for client work?

We’re at the ideal size to still be flexible in our approach. This means that every one of our clients has access to a huge array of specialists and, ultimately, they get a marketing and/or PR solution that is tailor-made for them.

What’s the best practice you’ve seen from a PR? And the worst?

I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing people in the industry, and those that shine through are always super smart, tenacious, passionate and curious. They say ‘curiosity killed the cat’ but I’d say a healthily enquiring mind is a must to stay on top of the PR game.

As for the worst, gee, that’s tough. It may not sound like such a big deal but I guess the worst offense there is in PR is to be constantly on ‘transmit’. If you can’t listen, you’ll run into all kinds of trouble.

With the nature of PR continuously evolving, how best can people prepare for a career in the industry?

The armoury of a top rate PR is vast but, overarchingly, the best PR people stay on top of their game.

Whilst the fundamentals of sound strategy stay the same, tactics come and go and what works today could be dead tomorrow. Consequently, the best PRs need to have a solid understanding of old-school journalism practices, whilst constantly adopting, and adapting to, the opportunities new technology brings.

When is it appropriate to say no to a client?

Honesty is always the best policy. If a client is asking for something that doesn’t align with their business strategy or goals, it’s our job to push back and to offer the right solution instead.

How do you ensure you create tangible results for the client? What methods and measurements do you use?

Whilst it is crucial to come up with measurable goals before embarking on a campaign, there is no magic formula. What we measure depends on the goals of the client, and this highlights the need for a sound, tailor-made strategy.

How would you deal with the crisis management for a client with a reputation that has been shattered?

For me, reputation management is all about honesty and integrity. With increasingly engaged audiences, there is no place for push communications or spin anymore.

What are your three tips/rules to building and maintaining strong relationships with journalists?

1. Have a strong story. But don’t assume that every journalist will be interested. Get to know their beat, and their audience.

2. Don’t abuse contacts. Just because you’ve worked well with someone in the past, don’t assume they’ll do you any favours.

3. Be nice! Always say thank you and don’t only approach journalists when you want something. Treat them like human beings!

How do you balance journalists’ needs with ensuring your clients get the right coverage?

Again, this is all about identifying the best story. If you can hit the sweet spot between what your client wants to say and what the journalist wants to hear – you’re golden.

Jess can be found tweeting @Jess_Champion, whilst the rest of the Distilled team can be followed via @distilled