From colleagues to friends and family, many people don’t understand what it is I actually do. It’s so varied, and there’s no agreed definition, even within the communications industry, about what we call ourselves. There’s a lot of personal interpretation involved in the terms PR, marketing and communications, and I find some potential clients and colleagues assume I don’t have certain skills I do have, and vice versa. So here’s an insight into a typical day in my working life to help shed some light.
After being clambered on by two boisterous kittens, which I’d recommend as a way to wake up, I check my emails and social media channels to see what’s happening in the world. I take the chance while I’m on my phone to check the social media notifications on my client’s accounts, and create and publish posts and stories on behalf of a North East client on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, promoting an event that’s taking place in a few days.
I make sure these are on brand and feature striking imagery, animated elements, such as a live countdown timer, hashtags and links, and tag any organisations and individuals involved to encourage them to share the content. However, given the fact Covid-19 cases have been rising fast in the region, messaging is sensitive to that, so the live-streaming option and the fact the audience is limited and socially-distant are key points.
Check, check, and check again!
I keep checking all client social media channel notifications every so often throughout the day, making a note of any recommendations to make to clients to improve their following and engagement as part of their overall PR strategy. I build regular client catch up meetings or calls into every contract, to help with two-way workflow so opportunities can be taken quickly, and any issues ironed out before they take hold.
I also check for client coverage frequently, following up with media outlets I’ve targeted to publish it. I share coverage with clients as well as on social media, and publish to their websites where appropriate, within the relevant restrictions as part of any agreement they have with the Newspaper Licensing Agency or the Copyright Licensing Agency, the bodies that protect the intellectual property of publishers from being misused.
I have alerts set up so coverage comes to me as it happens, but it’s worth doing regular manual searches to capture content search engines may have mislabelled or failed to index. All news stories I author are written in a way that takes into account Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), using key search terms and tags to help boost brand rankings. All of this helps evaluate the success of stories, campaigns and relationships on an ongoing basis, which is essential to PR. At any one time, I might be monitoring coverage for around five or six clients, as well as my own business on rare occasions, so it pays to be organised!
The spice of life
After breakfast, a few quick household chores and physio on my currently busted ankle, I feed and play with the kittens while catching up on the news headlines on Amazon Alexa and on TV, and flicking through a digital subscription I have to a key regional newspaper. Having grabbed a quick shower, I rattle off a search engine optimised news media release for a client I’ve been working with for several years in the property and built environment sector. Much of my work is in arts, culture and charity, but I still enjoy writing for a more corporate audience, and love to craft an engaging story that flows from a brief set of bullet points.
Grabbing some Ds
As I work from home, I hold my first meeting of the day while grabbing some vitamin D in the garden. It’s a quick catch up call with some colleagues to see where we’re all up to on our respective tasks, so we can plan our collective workload efficiently, and I can understand where my attention is most needed. Not many people realise I run my business alongside a part-time role leading the marketing and communications team for a large regional charity.
It’s a very meaty role and I’m in the process of making a series of updates and improvements to our website to make it more accessible, having done some disability awareness training. Am doing a similar piece of work for a client currently, as their content needs a refresh to fit in with how the organisation is growing and developing following the introduction of my communications strategy a couple of years ago. It’s fantastic to see the steps we’ve put in place paying dividends, and now I have a steady pipeline of planned communications coming at me from an engaged in-house delivery team that understands the benefit of a planned and coordinated approach to PR in helping them achieve their aims.
I’m also working with the newest member of my team, who has just graduated, on a comprehensive induction to help him get to grips with the organisation, the tools and processes we use, and the sector we work in. We’ve just launched a new service so I’m also implementing a marketing plan to raise awareness of it across sectors, and am chuffed to see when I check our website analytics that traffic is quickly building and that it’s the most clicked on link from my latest news bulletin.
Since I joined the team, memberships have increased by a third, subscribers are up by two thirds, and we’ve seen a 400 per cent increase in our reach as we’ve expanded into new areas and networks, so there’s never a dull moment. Capturing analytics like this is also a crucial part of what I do, both in-house and for clients, so we can measure progress against objectives on an ongoing basis, be sure about what is and isn’t working, and make tweaks where necessary.
Start with results
I’m pretty good at balancing time to focus on tasks with meetings and calls, and monthly management team meetings provide a chance to discuss any matters that may need to be referred to the board for consideration, and to make a start on large-scale annual event or milestone report planning, as well as the business plan for the year ahead. For most of my commitments, I work with and within small teams with flat structures, which means all of us need to be hands on while operating strategically. And internal communications are just as crucial as those intended for other audiences.
If your staff team or trustees aren’t on board with what you’re trying to achieve, there’ll be a mismatch in your messaging or your customer experience. Part of my job is to work together with colleagues and clients to make sure the whole team understands and is on board with our aims, and is aware of how they personally contribute to achieving them. That can make a big difference to them feeling happy and healthy at work, and like they can develop their career with the respective organisation over the long term. All of that makes it a lot easier to produce content. You might have a million great stories to be told within a business, but without solid relationships, the people that need to get wind of them won’t. That means those great stories can’t be properly told and celebrated.
Before lunch, I deal with a few email queries, update my to-do list and carry out any quick-win actions from my meetings from the day so far. I catch up on the news over lunch and check emails and social media. I keep an eye on notifications on Microsoft Teams, Slack and other relevant remote working tools that help with efficiency and collaboration. I worked partly from home before the pandemic, so was well-placed to help client teams and colleagues transition. We’ve all worked from home for more than 16 months now and we’re more productive than ever. I’m always planning ahead so throughout the day I add tasks and reminders to my Google and Outlook calendars as they come to me, as well as items for potential inclusion in my next bulletins.
I make sure to grab a proper screen break so I don’t run out of steam in the afternoon. A quick wander round the block or a few minutes enjoying the garden is a crucial part of my day so my clients and colleagues get the best of me. I’m also partial to a decent cuppa (Understatement! Check out @whoopsIteadmyself on Insta), and waiting for the kettle to boil a few times a day gives me a chance to do a bit more ankle rehab.
On to Zoom for a demonstration regarding a new PR tool, which offers a database of journalists, integration with Outlook and Google for personalised pitching and news distribution, and more accurate analytics, as well as coverage monitoring, social listening, share of voice and sentiment analysis. I’ve used several of these through the years, but many providers haven’t moved with the times and are only a realistic option for those with very large PR budgets. This tool looks a promising option for independent PR practitioners and smaller in-house budgets. Will test out the free option for a while before considering whether to invest.
In-house I work with IT suppliers to ensure value for money, and to make sure any support hours are used appropriately. I keep an overview of outstanding issues and decide on the items to prioritise so stakeholders get the best from us.
Not all copy is the same
The afternoon is relatively free of meetings, so I spend it writing, editing and proofreading. This could include full communications strategies, photoshoot or campaign plans, photos and other types of imagery for websites or social media, reports and evaluations, news items, award entries, event and email copy, social media posts, news bulletins and web content. This could have been authored by myself or by colleagues, where my role is to check it against the organisational tone of voice and brand guidelines, and to make appropriate edits and corrections so that what goes out is 100 per cent accurate, easy to read, and as compelling as it can be. Every aspect of the way something is written is tailored to its individual purpose, its intended audience, and the communications channel on which it will be published. A copy and paste job simply won’t work.
I recently introduced a style guide to one organisation to reduce the amount of time I spend proofing and to make its voice more consistent across channels, no matter who writes it. This template can be adapted for different organisational needs.
Currently, I’m working collaboratively with a number of organisations on a new programme of support that has recently launched, so I’ve supplied a piece of content that can be re-purposed on a number of platforms to help us get the word out.
Never stop learning
Moving on to planning and reflecting. Continuous professional development is at the heart of what I do, especially as the industry moves so fast and new tools and platforms are being introduced to the media landscape all the time. I usually spend a bit of time most days doing some sort of training or research, whether it’s listening to a podcast, taking part in a webinar or playing one back, watching a TED talk or reading an article. This helps me keep my skills current and means I can advise clients and colleagues about what options are right for them as their needs evolve.
I take a look at my diary for the following day and make a note of anything I might need to do to be ready for meetings and calls, so they can be efficient and productive for everyone involved. I prioritise my to do list, colour coding the items that are most pressing to make sure I can meet their deadline, and decide what should be delegated, queried, or pushed to the back burner. I take a glance at any notifications that have come through on email, Teams or social media channels so nothing is left unacknowledged.
My last virtual video call of the day is a brief meeting with a new potential client about streamlining and condensing the content on a local authority website to make it easier to navigate and give it a more human feel. As I started my PR career at a local council, and went on to work in communications for a bank, where content is rightly very heavily regulated, this sounds like it could be a great fit, and I look forward to hearing more.
The autobots are not in control
Before shutting down the laptop for the day, I spend a few minutes invoicing and doing other bits of essential admin before catching up with my fella, furbabies, family and friends. However, I frequently check social media channels, both personal and on behalf of clients outside of the 9-5. This is partly to keep abreast of developing issues and breaking news that might be relevant to my work; you never know when something might happen to make any pre-scheduled social media posts seem suddenly very inappropriate! And it’s partly to ensure notifications aren’t left unresponded to, especially where someone’s taken the time to speak with us. Automation is all very well, but people buy from people, so a human reply is always necessary.
As you can see, my craft covers digital, traditional and editorial elements, but at the core of what I do, apart from solid writing, is relationship building – within teams, with customers and beyond. Not only do you need to keep track of and care about the details, but bigger picture thinking is an absolute necessity.
If you’d like to learn more about how I can work with you to make your organisation pop, get in touch.