Posts Tagged ‘financial times’

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.

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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