I was so excited when Andrew Bloch agreed to feature in my #ThursdayThought series. I had the privilege to work for Frank in the summer and Andrew is one of my favourite industry leaders and PR inspirations. Andrew is Founder and Group Managing Director of Frank PR, a boutique agency headquartered in Camden, London with offices in Manchester, Glasgow and Australia. Frank handles clients such as Lord Sugar, Ridiculously Rich by Alana, Chessington World of Adventures, Paddy Power, Danone, Volvic, Green Flag and more. Andrew was recently named in the Evening Standard Progress 1000 as one of London’s most influential people 2016. He is ranked as the PR industry’s most influential tweeter.
The very first #ThursdayThought is a thought on how the industry is changing…..
LE: How has the PR industry changed within the last 5 years? Are clients wanting more from PR?
Andrew: The industry is changing at its fastest ever pace – unrecognisable from 5 years ago, let alone from when I started out in PR, 20 or so years ago. Some of the main reasons for this are the pace of technological change, the evolution of the media, changing consumption behaviours and the power of social media. As a result, the PR agency skillset has evolved to become much broader. PR has gone beyond traditional media relations, and a good PR agency needs to be able to understand digital, social and how to produce and distribute content effectively.
The industry’s ability to accurately measure the effectiveness of campaigns has improved dramatically. Gone are the days of only looking at outputs to evaluate a campaign. We can now look at and accurately measure the outcomes of campaigns and ensure our work is wholly accountable. The techniques PR companies use to track and monitor campaigns have increased in importance, and PR has become more analytical. The speed of communication has also increased. Social media has the ability to propel a campaign globally in a matter of moments.
LE: Do you agree that an integrated communications industry is the future? If not, what do you see the future of the industry being?
Andrew: The PR industry needs to take an integrated approach to survive. Media relations alone is no longer enough, and those that ignore this will do so at their peril. PR is naturally placed to lead integrated campaigns. PR understands earned communications and is able to engage consumers in a meaningful way. As the number of media outlets grows, the amount of information hitting consumers grows with it. Technology allows us to switch off notifications and block brands. We are hit by tens of thousands of commercial messages a day, and consumers put up barriers to block them out. Effective, integrated and well-executed PR campaigns create talkability, and can penetrate these barriers with messages and campaigns that consumers will want to engage with, talk about and effectively do a brand’s best marketing for it.
LE: What does this mean for PRP’s and agencies?
Andrew: The thing that keeps me passionate about this industry is the constant need to evolve. Standing still is not an option. When I first started in PR there was no email, we used fax machines! Technology has evolved so much since then and it shows no sign of slowing down. A good PR person has to adapt and learn to use new platforms and techniques. PR has evolved to incorporate many specialist skillsets. The Frank model is client centric. Within the agency, we have specialist planners, analysts, designers, SEO specialists, a dedicated newsroom, editorial directors and more. PR companies that stand still, ignore change and don’t adapt will die. It makes PR such an interesting industry to be a part of. It never stops. I can’t predict what will happen next and how we will have to adapt. The world is moving too quickly.
LE: What would you say the biggest threat to the PR industry is?
Andrew: The industry’s biggest threat is also the industry’s biggest opportunity – The merging together of the skillsets and capabilities of different marketing agencies. Five years ago, Frank largely pitched for business against other PR agencies. Today, we are now more likely to be pitching against ad, media and digital agencies.
This could be perceived as a threat – if we don’t stay on top of our game, they could eat our lunch.
I like to see it as an opportunity. As an agency, we have had to build and upskill and bring in specialists in order to compete effectively in all areas against other disciplines. PR is naturally placed to lead conversation and attract audiences. Every client wants a great idea, and they don’t really care where this idea comes from. Frank and many others in the PR industry are capable of great ideas. If we can demonstrate that we are capable of delivering these ideas in a fully integrated manner, then there is no stopping our industry. So, for me, the blending together of different marketing disciplines is a great opportunity. Frank are creating bigger, better and more exciting campaigns than ever before, and I see no signs of that changing.
LE: What would be your top tip for anyone looking to go into PR in the future?
Andrew: You’ve got to start taking an interest in the industry from the earliest stage you can. Read the right blogs, follow the right people and agencies on social media. Build up your knowledge, garner insights and develop an opinion.
I am a big advocate of work experience. It is the best way to understand if a career in PR is for you, and what is needed to succeed in the industry. You can use the experience to soak up what it is all about, ask questions and begin to build contacts. When it comes to that moment in time when you are applying for jobs, it gives you that edge over someone else who doesn’t have experience.
LE: What stands out to you in job applications?
Andrew: It amazes me that Frank is known for its creative approach to PR and yet 75% of the applications we receive are bog standard CV’s. Despite technological advances, job applications don’t appear to have evolved in all the time I’ve worked in the industry. I want job applications that stand out, that are personalised, well researched and creative. I would hire attitude over and above qualifications any day of the week. It is this which gets your foot in the door. Over the years, we have been sent shoes, cakes, CV’s on t-shirts, action figures and lots more. It works – it gets you noticed. We receive around 3-4,000 CV’s a year so it’s important to stand out. I look for effort, creativity and something that isn’t generic.
Research the company a bit before you approach them. Be aware of what they stand for, who they represent and their work. Have a reason or opinion about why you want to join Frank. A ‘cut and paste’ approach to job applications won’t get you very far. Show a bit of effort and it will go a long way.
“I would hire attitude over and above qualifications any day of the week. It is this which gets your foot in the door” – Andrew Bloch
It is amazing to think how much the industry is changing and will change by the time that I graduate. It will be really interesting to see this change happen and see how different it is by the time I graduate. It is even better to hear about it through industry professionals like Andrew. There is one of my #ThursdayThought’s answered…what’s next?