Q&A with Paratus’ Lead Social Media Consultant
This post is the seventh Q&A in an ongoing series looking at the usual Social Web Thing discussion topics of PR, social media and employability. I’m delighted that Adam Vincenzini, Lead Social Media Consultant at Paratus Communications – the agency that won Vodafone’s B2B, social media and consumer accounts has taken the time to share his thoughts with us.
Adam has spent most of his career in communications having studied PR at RMIT before cutting his teeth at Hill & Knowlton. Adam then moved on to a role at Cricket Australia and has been the Lead Social Media Consultant at Paratus for the past three years. He is a well known and active member of the UK PR industry often debating the latest issues at Comms Corner, as well as being co-founder of #CommsChat and Contributing Editor to PRDaily.com
1. As a Lead Communications Consultant, what does your role involve on a daily basis?
The majority of my role revolves around clients and new business, but the scope of work is incredibly broad.
One day might involve responding to a new brief, staging brainstorms and developing proposals, and then the next day might involve arranging for mobile phones to be reviewed by journalists. Increasingly however, my role is dictated by what is happening online in real time.
A good portion of each day is spent manually keeping an eye on conversations / exchanges and providing advice on how to respond to those opportunities / challenges as they happen.
2. What’s it like to work at Paratus and how does it vary from the other positions you’ve had?
I started my career at Hill & Knowlton (first in Australia and then London) and got to experience big agency life and the opportunities those environments provide.
I also spent three years with the Australia Cricket team (when we won consistently!) and got to understand the importance of getting buy in from internal stakeholders while working with such a high profile group. Paratus is very different to those places. We have a small central team of 10 who manage freelance independent consultants pulled in based on specialism (whether it be sector or geographical).
The founders of the business have both come from big agencies and have created the best of both worlds – we’re agile enough to respond to changes in the marketplace as they happen, but we also have the resource to service bigger clients appropriately.
I’ve definitely evolved as a consultant thanks to the environment I’m in.
3. What attracted you to the social media side of communications?
It started when I was back at Cricket Australia helping to manage the Australian Cricket Family – an online community of 150,000+ passionate cricket fans.
Then, as social media became more prominent, I started to surround myself with people who knew more than I did and got increasingly excited by the things I was learning.
That enjoyment translated into me taking a more proactive role in the counsel we offer to clients and has continue to grow from there.
4. In your opinion, if you work in social media, how important is it to blog?
I think blogging was (and continues to be) the single most important factor in my development as a consultant in this space.
Once you start blogging you realise you are managing a public property and you alone are responsible for how it looks and feels. You’re not only creating content, but you are getting the best education possible as to what audiences want and how to integrate that feedback into the purpose of your blog.
It is also your hub, a place where all your online efforts come together (and can fall apart). And, it makes you aware of every element of social / digital media from SEO to analytics and design to planning.
My only advice to others is consider topics outside of PR / social media – you can still learn about how it works even if you are blogging about fashion, music or sport.
5. You seem to be at the forefront of the London digital scene, what are the main advantages of online PR vs. traditional PR?
I think everything we do, online or traditional, has to deliver benefits relative to the specific objectives set.
If the aim is to create buzz around the launch of a new mobile phone, then social and online channels are great because there are thousands of conversation drivers scattered all over the net who can carry messages for you.
But, in some cases where the participants are not as engaged or plentiful, then traditional media outlets may suit your needs more.
I think the biggest advantage of online PR is the ability to shape your approach based on the people you want to reach. Every day online participants give you more and more insight into what they are passionate about and you can use that to create mutually beneficial situations.
6. Should graduates bring a hard copy portfolio to a PR interview? What do you think about e-portfolios?
Personally, I don’t want to see a hard copy portfolio at an interview because the type of candidates I’m interested are generally so active online already that you know what they are capable of.
E-portfolios a handy, and I know my colleagues increasingly like referring to them, but in an ideal world a relationship will have been built up with the candidate a long way in advance of the formal stage and the ability to foster relationships is far more valuable than any portfolio will ever be.
7. What are the 3 most important skills graduates need to be successful in PR?
1. Listen – while listen to your colleagues is important, listening to what consumers are saying online and watching out for how they interact is the foundation of success.
2. Engage – one of the most overused words of 2010 has to be genuinely part of your skill set in 2011 and beyond – engaging means getting involved in the communities and places you want to be active in and adding value to those environments. It is hard to be passive and have an influence in discussions.
3. Analyse – PR people are increasingly asked to be more analytical because of the data that is now available. This means understanding tools like Google analytics but also using your analytical nous to improve the way in which things are done.
8. What 3 tips would you give to someone trying to land a social media role?
1. Blog, blog, blog – even if you start with a simple posterous site, curating content that you find interesting, just be active.
2. Turn online conversations into offline connections – if you develop a rapport with someone in the industry online, arrange to meet them in real life, even if its just for a coffee – solidifying a connection can open all sorts of doors.
3. Experiment – don’t simply follow the same formula as everyone else, try something different that will teach you something new. For example, set up a video only blog, or create a group on linked in for people in the same position as you – there is never any harm in trying new things.
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)
I think clients are increasingly aware of the benefits (and challenges) of social media.
The best thing we can do as an industry is simplify the way in which we talk about it and position it.
It is not rocket science, it is not an entirely new language, it is just an evolution of what we’ve always done – the more comfortable we make our clients feel about this, the less nervous they’ll be.
10. You seem to have a keen eye for useful Twitter and social media tools – what tool has been your best discovery this year and what tool would make your life easier?
I just wrote a post on this recently – 11 Twitter and social media tools to try in 2011 – with Mention Map being my favourite amongst the bunch.
Blog research and measurement is still the trickiest part of what we do with no single solution out there that can make everyone’s lives easier.
However, I’d keep an eye on BlogDash.com, a tool for blogger outreach, from David Spinks which is set to be launched very soon and could be the answer to all of our prayers.
I would like to put on record my thanks to Adam for sharing his thoughts with us and wish him all the best for another super 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 Adam.