Q&A with Wolfstar’s Head Innovator
This post is the sixth Q&A in an ongoing series looking at the usual topics of PR, employability and other hints on getting into the industry, albeit with a particular focus on social media. I’m delighted that Jed Hallam who is Head of Innovation at Wolfstar, the award-winning PR, social media, WOM and communications agency has shared his thoughts with us. I’d recommend signing up to their blog to get the latest thoughts from MD Stuart Bruce and the rest of the Wolfstar pack.
A bit more on Jed…he is a graduate of Nottingham Trent University and previously worked at Academic Answers as a Communications Manager. He joined Wolfstar in 2008 having persuaded Stuart Bruce and team to offer him a trial after creating a Facebook Group outlining why Wolfstar would be his dream job and what he would bring to the Wolfstar pack. All in all, Jed’s had a fantastic year, heading up Wolfstar’s newly launched Innovation Labs and being nominated in the PR Week 29 Under 29 list.
My role at Wolfstar Consultancy has now evolved and I now split my time between traditional client account work and my new role as head of innovation at Wolfstar Labs. While this sounds very black and white, it isn’t really! Part of everyone’s role at Wolfstar Consultancy is to innovate and exercise their creative muscles to benefit our clients, but part of my new role is to make sure that the nucleus thoughts go from idea, to proof of concept, to product!
In a nutshell, Wolfstar Labs is an engine to create next generation products.
2. What’s it like to work at Wolfstar Consultancy and how does it vary from the other positions you have had?
Well I’ve been at Wolfstar Consultancy for more than two years now so I’ve witnessed it grow from four or five people to nearly fifteen now. It’s been an exciting two years and I’m very lucky to work with some incredible people – in my eyes there are very few people in this space that understand public relations social media as well as the people that work at Wolfstar Consultancy.
Every day is different (clichéd, but true) and because we have such a broad range of clients there’s always the opportunity for creativity.
3. What attracted you to the social media side of communications?
Like most people, I fell into public relations. Once I’d been working in in-house public relations for about a year I realised that the internet was playing a much bigger role in peoples’ lives than a lot of agencies realised, so I started to look at how I could use online tools to connect more effectively with people. And it worked!
Right now I’m obsessed with how we can integrate technology and thinking into how a brand can build better relationships to ultimately sell more products and services! A big part of that is understanding how different communications disciplines fit together and how each can bring its own skill set to online – I always picture a Trivial Pursuit playing piece with each piece of cake being a marketing discipline – each on their own is ok, but together it’s brilliant.
4. Wolfstar Labs was launched in October, what was the thinking behind it and what can we expect to see coming out of the lab in 2011?
Wolfstar Labs publicly launched this October, but we’ve been working on products for over a year now. Wolfstar Labs is an innovation incubator designed to create products supporting online corporate communication and brand management. Products created in Wolfstar Labs are then used by Wolfstar Consultancy to counsel clients on social media and develop and implement online public relations strategy and campaigns.
Wolfstar Labs has a range of other products in development including smart monitoring for crisis and issues management, online consultation tools and products for the semantic web.
5. Where does your passion for innovation come from?
The industry, the consultancy and the people. Public relations is an industry that thrives on ‘the new’ and customers react to the disruption and innovation. Wolfstar Consultancy has always pushed the team to think laterally and wider than ‘what’s been done before’ and having clients that are looking for ‘something new’ always helps too!
Oh, and of course, thinking of an idea, writing it in your notebook and then working tirelessly on it for six months to see it help clients connect with their audience always gives you a rush.
6. How does it feel to be named in the PRWeek 29 Under 29 list and what did you do to deserve this accolade?
Absolutely incredible. It’s a massive honour to even be considered and the list was full of great people so yes, very happy 🙂
7. You seem to be one of those at the forefront of the UK digital scene, what are the main advantages of online PR vs. traditional PR?
It’s very nice of you to say that Ben! I think the thing with ‘the scene’ is that it’s very fast moving and you have to constantly be aware of trends and technology so that you can stay with the curve – I tend to live in a constant state of fear of being left behind!
As for the traditional vs online debate, my thinking is very simple: the public doesn’t see the difference, so why should we? A great campaign should breach every communications boundary.
8. Should graduates bring a hard copy portfolio to a PR interview? What do you think about e-portfolios
Absolutely! If for nothing more than a prompt – I’ve seen countless people forget about their own skills and experience at interview stage – so yes, always bring a hard copy! E-portfolios are a great idea, a nice compliment to a physical portfolio, but it shouldn’t take priority. If you have a fully completed LinkedIn profile or an industry-specific blog then these can be just as useful.
9. As we look ahead to 2011, what more can be done to convince clients of the benefit of social media? (ROI, evaluation, sales etc)
Case studies. Nothing speaks louder than having a track record of exceeding client expectations and it’s our job as practitioners to publicise our work – something the public relations industry has had trouble with in the past.
10. What 3 tips would you give to someone trying to land a social media role?
Research, research, research!
Honestly, the most important thing to remember is to know the agency inside out (its clients, history, its MD, the team, the gossip, the services), know the industry and know yourself! You’d be surprised how many graduates know very little about their own experience and skills!
But three simple things to remember are research everything before you apply, make sure you have an opinion on big issues within the industry and when you’ve got the job work your fingers to the bone. There’s no such thing as a nine to five anymore.
I would like to put on record my thanks to Jed for sharing his thoughts with us and wish him all the best for another great year. An ever increasing number of students I speak to say they want to work for a PR agency that specialises in social media so i’m sure they will find this Q&A insightful. I’d also like to thank the students, industry colleagues and academics from all over the country who sent me the questions to put to Jed.