Happy New Year – and what better way to kick things off than by having a chat with one of the industry stars of 2010! I’m delighted that Graeme Anthony, Senior Account Manager at Frank PR, AKA the guy whose C.V.I.V went a bit viral in September has taken the time to speak to SWT.
Graeme had a truly memorable 2010, moving to London, launching a globally acclaimed video and landing a job at Frank PR. I often post wonderful examples of graduates who have used innovative methods to land a job in the PR industry; however I have a feeling Graeme will be used as the case study for a while to come. In short, Graeme’s creativity is a fantastic example to any young person looking to break into and thrive in the PR industry.
1. As a Senior Account Manager, what does your role involve on a daily basis?
I don’t think it’s possible to describe any PR role on a daily basis. Whatever position you’re in, you have one goal – to complete your objective through any means necessary. And that’s really a team effort which is my responsibly to ensure that the campaign is on track and flourishing. That’s not to say I don’t get my hands dirty. As I’ve already mentioned, you don’t stop until the job’s done and one day I could be developing and pitching ideas to the CEO of a multinational organisation…the next I could be sampling chilli flavoured ice-cream to journalists – both I have done and both tasks are equally important.
There is no such thing as being pigeon holed in PR – you have to be a jack of all trades and a master of them all also. Personally speaking, the role hierarchy means very little to me. The important thing is what you bring to an organisation – making yourself indispensable. Yes everyone has to earn their stripes, but just because you’re a grad trainee or exec, doesn’t mean you’re restricted. Be proactive; go above and beyond what’s asked from you on a daily basis.
2. What’s it like to work at Frank PR and how does it vary from the other positions you have had?
Frank PR is one of the most talented PR agencies I’ve had the privilege to work with. Headed by some of the UK’s most respected practitioners such Graham Goodkind, Andrew Bloch, Frankie Cory, and Alex Grier to name a few – the passion for PR is paramount and this philosophy transcends throughout the agency. In turn, this fundamental belief is and always has been passed down through the ranks – from directors at the very top, all the way down to school leavers conducting work experience. The result is not only an agency renowned for its unrivalled creativity and precise implementation – but quite simply a talent pool for the next generation of industry leaders.
In terms of variation, there’s actually very little difference between Frank and my last agency, Brazen PR, apart from location of course. I was extremely lucky to develop my craft under the guidance of the agency’s management board whose ethos is actually very similar to Franks’ in terms of uncompromising PR. It’s a winning formula that both companies are prospering from.
3. What attracted you to the social media side of communications?
I don’t think anything in particular attracted me to the area…I seemed to naturally evolve into it like most other practitioners. It was an emerging communication platform and as the voice of an organisation, it was an opportunity for the industry to evolve alongside it.
At the very beginning it was an extremely exciting time for communications and still is today and will be for a long time to come. Although we’ve now been practising social media for many years, it’s still in its early stages of infancy which makes us the founding fathers. We’re pioneering the future of the industry and I want to be a part of that!
4. What do you think are the main advantages of online PR vs. traditional PR?
I never compare the two to be honest. I’m a firm believer that both disciplines integrate but each has to be evaluated on merit in terms of the brief. If I was pushed for an answer, it would be that online PR has enabled us to have genuine two-way conversation direct with our audience – something not possible through traditional techniques. Although this is an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage in terms of the response if the strategy and mechanic isn’t implemented correctly – causing a backlash.
5. Should graduates bring a hard copy portfolio to a PR interview? What do you think about e-portfolios?
It very much depends upon the formality of the occasion but my best advice is to treat all interviews like a pitch in terms of expecting the unexpected and being prepared for every eventuality. E-portfolios are now the most accessible and impressive form of self-promotion but always have a backup plan! Technology can be your best friend and worst enemy – the pen and paper will always triumph in terms of reliability.
6. What are the 3 most important skills graduates need to be successful in PR?
Naturally there is a standard skill set required such as writing and media knowledge but at a graduate level, I personally look for a number of key characteristics:
* And most importantly – the fire in their eyes to succeed
Skills can be easily learnt and mastered whilst character is what makes an individual. Show your true character and show your future employer why you are a worthy investment. That is essential!
7. What 3 tips would you give to someone trying to land a social media role?
1. PR yourself! But with a social media or digital twist of course.
2. Practice what you hope to preach.
3. Be socialable. We all practice social media because we believe in it so don’t be afraid to engage and interact with the industry’s top leaders – they’re all human beneath their avatars.
8. 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’m not sure if it’s a case of convincing any more. Nine months ago…yes, but I think every brand manager is now fully aware of the opportunities that social media and digital PR can bring to an organisation. Unfortunately, I don’t think some clients know where to turn to for the correct advice and become a little overwhelmed by the whole situation. Rather than ask for help, they simply pretend social media doesn’t exist and bury their head in the sand when it really doesn’t have to be like that. The message is clear, when you’re ready to talk we’re ready to listen and will help you and your company evolve.
9. You gained worldwide coverage for your innovative C.V.I.V – what was the rationale behind this idea?
There was quite a few reasons for creating the C.V.I.V. Primarily, it was imperative that I found work as soon as possible after moving to London and following my own philosophy…you have to PR yourself because no one else will. If I’m being honest though, I never had any doubt in my mind about securing employment because I had and do have 100% confidence in my own abilities. The C.V.I.V was more about landing in London with a bang, attempting to generate a splash amongst my peers and more than anything else – experimenting! It’s all about experimenting with new exciting platforms and YouTube Annotations lent itself naturally to my audience and exactly what I wanted to communicate.
However, the rationale evolved half-way through implementation when it was blogged by Paul Armstrong (Kindred) and Robin Grant (We Are Social). It was never my intention to allow the C.V.I.V into the public domain due to its confidential nature – hence the videos are delisted from YouTube’s search engines and still are today because my audience is pretty niche. My thought process was that the URL had been syndicated by media practitioners to other media practitioners – meaning the C.V.I.V was targeting the specific audience who I wanted to see it. As a result, the concept went viral and I received a torrent of support from practitioners across the globe – this is something I am still extremely grateful of. The thing I’m most proud of is what people have taken away from the activity in the form of stimulating discussion and new ideas – it really inspired individuals and that’s what matters the most to me. Essentially, the project was conceived through means of covert self-promotion but ended as something that unified the industry – that’s the unpredictable and beautiful nature of social media.
10. The C.V.I.V obviously worked and you got a job with Frank PR – but what other benefits has it brought you?
Fan mail…lots and lots of fan mail.
I think I should probably point out that it wasn’t strictly the C.V.I.V that secured me a job at Frank. As I’ve previously mentioned, they’re an extremely talented group of individuals and also extremely efficient at spotting talent when it comes knocking on their door.
In terms of benefits, the project has opened doors and allowed me to make connections with people I never expected to meet. Individuals who I describe as PR and social media royalty, brand leaders of huge multinational organisations, key industry leaders – all lending me their support. It really was an overwhelming experience and I couldn’t ask for anymore.
It’s being invited by Bruce Daisley (YouTube) and Justin Pearse (New Media Age) to the NMA Top 100 launch and having individuals personally congratulate me on my efforts. It’s attending a CIPR Summer Social hosted by Philip Sheldrake (Influence Crowd LLP) and Stephen Waddington (Speed Communications) who then go on to use me as a surprise case study…which was also a surprise to me. It’s colleagues at Frank who I describe as PR royalty such as the aforementioned Graham, Andrew, Frankie and Alex who introduce me to clients and personal contacts with pride. It’s obtaining this sort of recognition and simply wanting to emulate it again and again.
I’d also like to credit my good friend and multimedia genius Dan Burdett who I couldn’t have completed the C.V.I.V without.
I would like to put on record my thanks to Graeme for sharing his thoughts with us and wish him all the best for another fantastic 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 Graeme.