As far as our Skout values go, nothing shapes our natural storytelling approach more than our ‘resourceful and inquisitive’ ethos. Exploring every layer to our clients and leaving no stone in the business unturned is a priority to us, and it’s how we create a flow of ideas for PR and marketing materials. But any PR team finds it difficult to get an in-depth view of every aspect of the business, and spotting topics that could translate into effective campaigns or content ideas is a challenge.
Just like a writer getting writer’s block, PR pros sometimes feel like they’ve exhausted their ideas. When getting to know a new client, any creative PR agency will have an abundance of topics to explore. But as this repertoire of ideas gradually reduces, it can be a challenge to add more to the mix. That might be when the agency creates news stories, for example by commissioning a survey, to keep activity going. But this isn’t always necessary, and the organisation might have been sitting on the foundations of a great story all along. It just requires some digging around to find them and a well-thought out strategy to turn it into PR material.
Take a previous client of ours, vielife, a provider of health and wellbeing solutions. As a company that assesses employees’ personal health, it had a wealth of data that showed how fit and well UK workers are judging by their day-to-day activities. We decided that therein lay some revealing insights into the state of the UK workforce that would make for a headline-grabbing campaign. vielife’s chief medical officer interpreted the data, and we discovered that UK workers were sleep-deprived, which had the same effects as being drunk. We pitched this to various national and sector publications, which led to full page spreads in the Observer and the Guardian, exclusives in HR Magazine and Financial Director, and coverage in over 50 pieces of target media. By simply using its own data, we raised vielife’s brand awareness and showed its ability to uncover health-related trends that people and workplaces can use to improve their wellbeing.
So how do you work with a business to ensure that nothing slips through the net and that you make the most of every potential PR opportunity? At Skout, we begin a new client relationship with a ‘foraging day.’ This involves us interviewing various spokespeople across the business and asking them about their role, their challenges, and what issues are affecting them. Not only does that help us understand the client and the sector it operates in, it sparks up some ideas for PR activity. We put this into a foraging report that notes these ideas and states how it can work as a piece of marketing content. Having a backlog of themes to base activity on ensures that we’re never short of ideas. In fact, the challenge lies more in trying to fit it into the time we have.
But foraging for ideas doesn’t have to follow such a structured process. A relationship that sees a free-flow of communication from both the client and the agency will boost the chances of PR-worthy topics getting explored. It’s key to tell the client that if the business is experiencing something interesting, they should share it with you. Otherwise, news such as customer wins and new appointments could fall under the radar, minimising PR and marketing results. If you feel that the client simply isn’t inclined to share worthwhile news, arranging more regular face-to-face meetings will force them into increasing the communication from their side. You might just find the tip of an engaging topic, which after some further probing can be turned into some effective PR material.
Coming up with new and original ideas for a client is no easy task for a PR team. That’s why we never work with clients without exploring their breadth and depth, focusing on specific areas of interest, and not taking these topics at face value. But it can’t happen without a successful working relationship between the agency and the client. Being resourceful and inquisitive is about digging deep into the client and finding those hidden stories, and effective communication is one way of achieving that.
Alex Brown enjoys being one of the Skout blog’s most regular contributors.