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PR Interview with Mark Stringer, founder of PrettyGreen

Tell us about your recent campaign for Nando's…
The team has been helping Nando’s on its latest 'Wing Roulette' campaign. Celebrating the playful plate that is basically ten chicken wings, with various levels of peri-peri heat… but the brilliance is that you don’t know what heat level you are getting until it hits your tongue.
Our brief was to drive talkability both socially as well as in the media around Wing Roulette as well as supporting the new ATL campaign by 18 Feet & Rising, which is all about bringing personality to your fingers (the only way to really eat a chicken wing).
We’ve created influencer and journalist finger portraits, we’ve challenged bloggers and vloggers to try Wing Roulette and within the last week we’ve had over 1,000 #fingerselfies, 600 instagram photos and a social reach of over 900k.
We haven’t had any restaurant data, as we're only a week into the campaign, but it’s been a lot of fun for the team. 
What else has been happening recently at PrettyGreen
The year's got off to a flyer. In our first quarter we’ve grown 40% year on year, and from a new business perspective we’ve had a 70% pitch conversion rate. Recent wins for us include Movember, Oliver Bonas, Giffgaff and Niccocino.
We’ve also focused on building a strong management team, following the creation of our board last year. Two new client services directors joined, one for comms and one for events, with Ceri Reed joining from GolinHarris and Kate Morrison joining from RPM, plus Jo Hudson has joined us from Fallon to head up our planning function. We’ve also got a head of creative for comms joining in a month.
But more than anything I’m most proud about the quality, variety and depth of the work we’re doing for our existing clients like Nando’s, Pretty Polly, Under Armour, Cadbury, Virgin Media, smart & John Lewis.
How do you get people talking about a brand and the press writing about it?
For me it’s really simple, you just need to ask the question “would you want to see, hear or read about it”. If the answer is yes, then the content you’re pitching to a journalist has a good chance of being picked up.
How does the agency structure its teams for client work?
The whole agency is built on a simple model called the 'Contentment Model', which focuses on firstly harnessing existing content and telling that story in a simple way. Secondly, we look at what new content is required to ensure the story being told is interesting, engaging, and helps us communicate the key messages and effectively bringing that to life as a campaign.
We have four integrated but distinct parts for every client; PR, digital, experience and creative. That doesn’t mean we necessarily deliver every element of the campaign, but it means our campaigns and our teams are integrated thinkers, but discipline experts and have sensitivity to other areas of the marketing mix. Understandably all this is underpinned by strategic planning.
Has telling a brand’s story changed now traditional PR methods have given way to social and digital?
I’d argue the only real change is the pace everyone has to work; there’s immediacy about what we do today. The idea of pitching to desks for overnight coverage feels like it was something done a million years ago. You could argue that there are a lot more media channels now and the consumers consume news in a totally different way, as well as help create and publish news. Everyone’s a journalist and media outlet today, but media channels have never stayed still. The fundamentals are still the same. Is it a good story?
Is it worthwhile setting up your own agency? What are the risks, and what skills do you have to have to see it through?
If you set your own agency up for the financial or material rewards, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I did it as a way of being able to do the things I’ve always wanted to do, which is what still drives me. PrettyGreen for me is the vehicle to do the things I’ve always dreamed of doing. 
The risks are more than financial. It’s more about your ability to handle the emotional roller coaster of running your own business. It has to be a 24/7 relentless labour of love. The highs and the good times are amazing. But the darkest hours are lonely, and they test you.
I’d say you need to have confidence, tenacity and humility in equal measures. Your confidence will get knocked along the way, so you need to keep picking yourself up. But I also think you need to have humility – it’s important we continually remind ourselves of that, and don’t let our egos and self-importance get in the way.
It’s also vitally important that you have a really strong support network around you. PrettyGreen has enabled me to have a brilliant lifestyle, but it’s also interrupted every holiday, every weekend, every birthday etc. If your partner, friends and or family don’t understand that, and support you, then that pressure will become destructive. They also need to be able to tell you, when you need to turn off your phone, put down your laptop and recharge.
What’s the best practice you’ve seen from a PR? And the worst?
The best – The creativity and speed the industry can implement those ideas.
The worst – The constant bemoaning of people who talk about PR not being taken seriously and it being unfair that it’s not invited to the top table enough.  In life, you don’t get invited anywhere unless you’re worth inviting.
Everyone knows the traditional model is dead, which gives agencies who operate in the dark arts (PR, experiential, digital) an amazing opportunity.  We shouldn’t be worried about where we sit; we should be worried about what we do, how we do it and whom we do it with.
How do you ensure you create tangible results for the client? What methods and measurements do you use?
Things like AVE and OTS are the most ridiculous result myths perpetrated by a naïve industry. If we truly delivered campaigns with old school AVE’s of £100m, or 400m OTS, media agencies would not exist, as every client would have put all their money into earned media. It was counter productive and has made clients suspicious of the results we deliver, and they aren’t believable or measurable against a client's bottom-line.
We do use reach as a measurement of success as a benchmark, but we focus much more on measurable outputs, messaging, quality editorial, cost per contact, attendance, sales etc.
Is the need to develop relationships with press journalists as important now since the rise in use of content marketing and social media?
The business is still very much about relationships. There are just a lot more channels and opportunities for us to create and distribute our earned media content, and we need to embrace and understand that. Whether it’s bloggers, vloggers, online editors, picture editors, etc. etc.
What are your three tips/rules to building and maintaining strong relationships with journalists?
1. Spending time with them
2. Giving them what they need or that is relevant to them
3. Booze, food and a good night out.
What future plans do you have for the agency?
We’re currently working on a number of really exciting developments around the agency. We’ve a new division that we’re going to launch next month, being headed up by an ex-client of ours. We’ve a new stand-alone business that we’re hoping to launch by June that will sit under the PrettyGreen umbrella but won’t be called PrettyGreen.
We’re also currently exploring a number of international opportunities that involve either acquiring overseas and/or partnering.
We’re also looking to invest up to £1m in incubator projects and our own ventures and brands during 2014.