Archive for August, 2011

Fun times at the Financial Times

August 26, 2011

It’s not every day you’re offered the chance to experience life at one of the most recognisable and widely respected newspapers in the world, so I jumped at the chance of taking part in a short term job-swap with one of the FT’s communications team. So with no expectations and a sack full of questions I headed down to Southwark Bridge and into the bustling FT HQ.

Editorial conferences form the backbone of the Press Office’s proactive media outreach, listening out for all-important scoops, followed by the frenzied scribbling of notes and subsequent pitching to broadcast outlets. While these conferences are part of the daily routine for the many journalists, editors and wider comms team present, they were a rare and fascinating window into a world that many PRs never get to experience.

Even to the most seasoned PR professionals, editorial conferences can be mysterious and frustratingly elusive factories of censorship, where our carefully crafted stories are processed, dissected and manufactured into something new. Sometimes they are consigned to the waste heap and (thankfully) other times they are mass produced. It was a privilege and a thoroughly edifying experience to be a part of them during my short time at the FT.

Of course, getting an insight into the inner workings of the paper and a taste of the tactics used to promote the FT brand was hugely interesting, but it also served as the perfect chance to get a flavour of in-house public relations. Working with a single ‘client’, for example, is an intriguing concept to the uninitiated agency-based PR.

At Skywrite we each work with multiple organisations – in industries as diverse as B2B telecoms, gaming and lifestyle – who each have several products, services or solutions launching at varying times of the year. I quickly learnt that in-house life, at the FT at least, is no less varied. One day I was staffing briefings on the FT’s digital strategy, the next I was pitching a scoop on RBS cutting 2,000 jobs, and the day after I was promoting FT Weekend content on the wines of France to lifestyle bloggers.

The major difference was the role of proactive and reactive outreach on a daily basis. The FT and its Press Office have done an amazing job at building very close relationships with broadcast outlets, positioning their expert journalists as go-to authorities on a range on topics. This requires a lot of proactive work in the background, but when a big scoop breaks the phone does not stop ringing. It’s easy to see how quickly a typical day can be flipped on its head as the team efficiently organises the resulting myriad of enquiries and interview requests.

In contrast, almost 100% of our daily work at Skywrite is based entirely on proactivity. Either brainstorming ideas, developing campaigns or plans designed to generate media interest, creating content that fits into the news agenda, or simply pitching news and product reviews. We’re on the phone just as much as our in-house counterparts – the only difference is who does the dialling.

To find out how the other half of the job-swap went, read the FT’s Esther Kissiedu on her time at Skywrite, available here.

Gorkana interviews Skywrite’s Laura Macdonald

August 19, 2011

Our very own Laura Macdonald (or Big Mac as we like to call her) has just been interviewed by Gorkana!

Read her thoughts on Skywrite’s interesting past and glorious future right here.

Afternoon Skywrite supercharge

August 16, 2011

A little while ago, not surprisingly around the 3:20pm mark, the following article got the Skywrite team talking and drawing straws on who would do the afternoon chocolate run…

We’ve all been there. That mid afternoon dip in energy is murder. But the very nature of the ‘always on’ PR world requires for red alert throughout the working day – and there’s still a good few hours left beyond 3:20pm. Here’s how we dodge the biscuit barrel and keep ourselves going at Skywrite via other means during a potential afternoon dip:

  • Kick off a comedy email trail – it gets everyone talking, it’s a bit of light relief and few things are more stimulating than a lot of laughter in the office. We’re rather partial to a Lolcat or two. Our big cheese Laura Macdonald may even be mildly obsessed by them…
  • There’s no denying coffee is an instant pick me up. As a special treat we’ll often hit the good stuff. Resident barista Sam Brookes highly recommends any strong Italian blend
  • We’re blessed with a bit of a swish media centre at Skywrite in our newly refurbed home. We all face three screens, two of which carry 24 hour news, the other plays out the soundtrack to the Skywrite day. But everybody’s tastes are different. Be sure to mix things up a bit – you’ll often find Nick and Amy toggling between Absolute and Heart depending on the mood of the day
  • Get up and have a walk around. Skywrite is part of the Hotwire Group and we’re really lucky to be able to talk to our Hotwire colleagues in person, with ease. It’s amazing how something as simple as getting out of your seat to have a chat with someone else can spark off lots more ideas and allow you to attack the afternoon with much more vigour

But, if all else fails, chocaholic Holly Sainsbury will tell you, few things compare to a (Cadbury’s) Boost in the afternoon.

UKTJPR uncovered

August 11, 2011

Thursday 4th August saw the mighty UKTJPR roll into town and throw another amazing bash. But what is the UKTJPR I hear you cry? Well – we hear from our very own Amy Ronge, UK events director for the group, to find out…

Skywriters: What is the UKTJPR?

Amy: UKTJPR stands for UK Tech Journalists and PRs – it’s a basically a networking group that throws really good parties – for free. It’s a volunteer run group, with a team of about 8 people. We have a Facebook group where people can request to join, and we share most of our info on there, and through our Twitter feed. I’m the UK events director along with my friend and colleague, Laura Strong. We hold parties about 6 times a year, some big, some small – but always a lot of fun.

Skywriters: What does your role entail?

Amy: I am responsible for running all the events we have in the UK – from finding a sponsor, to picking the perfect venue and then hosting the night. There’s a lot of work involved, a lot of back and forth with sponsors and the venue, but it’s all worth it in the end when we can put on a fantastic event.

Skywriters: So what was last Thursday’s event all about then?

AR: In the spirit of summer, we decided to have a BBQ. We started planning a good couple of months ago, and found a great sponsor in NVIDIA. Finding a venue that was central and had a big enough roof terrace was tricky, but we found the perfect spot with the Big Chill House near Kings Cross. Last Thursday was mega – we had 250 people turn up, and the atmosphere was amazing. Drinks flowed all night, the BBQ was gobbled up, and as far as I can remember, dancing was involved at some point too…! All the buzz created around it was great – with queues out the door and lots of chatter on Twitter.

Skywriters: What’s next then?

Amy: Next up is an event in October….you’ll have to watch this space!

The Sky’s the limit

August 5, 2011

Esther Kissiedu, on exchange with Skywrite from the FT, gives her thoughts on in-house vs. agency life…

When I was asked if I would like to do a month’s secondment at the Hotwire Group’s offices, I jumped at the chance. Having worked as an in-house PR exec at the Financial Times for over 4 years, this was the perfect opportunity to see how the other side operated.

During my second week I had the chance to work in the Skywrite division of the Hotwire Group, focusing on consumer tech PR. August for some industries is a quiet month, but in an agency work never stops. Jumping straight into it, I began by wrapping-up coverage for one of their biggest telecoms clients – seeing just how much emphasis is put on great results. I soon realised that brainstorming is also weaved into everything they do. Almost every day I took part in a creative session, which generated some out-there ideas and made me see why so many clients use them as their chosen agency.

I was glad I had the chance to work on so many different client accounts, coming from banking and finance background to working on consumer tech clients was fun and diverse. I’m used to the FT brand opening doors and so pitching from a different point of view was a challenge.

Looking at how agency life compares to an in-house role, what’s obvious is we both work really hard for our clients. Working in-house I have to store just one client in my head, whereas agencies manage to juggle several clients and know them inside out – which I find remarkable! I work on several different projects at the FT: managing broadcast queries, promoting the brand and dealing with numerous journalists and keeping abreast of current affairs and news is vital. I found working at an agency similar in those terms, as they have to be quick to react and are constantly on the lookout for opportunities for their clients. The extensive connections with journalists needed across many different sectors is also dizzying!

A week isn’t long enough to get full picture of Skywrite, but it definitely gives me a new outlook on agency life! It’s been a pleasure.


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