Outside the office

Storytelling at CommsCon 2018

The team recently attended Cision’s CommsCon 2018. This is the first in a short series of blogs discussing what we discovered.

 

Storytelling at CommsCon 2018

Cision’s inaugural UK CommsCon event was described by Steven Waddington as “more like an Adobe, Microsoft or Salesforce event than a public relations gig”. The communications software behemoth drew close to 1,000 delegates to London’s Canada Water last week and we were in attendance to see how new ideas and approaches from across the pond are impacting the world of communications.

Telling Tales

The morning consisted of a welcome address from Cision CEO Kevin Akeroyd and CMO Chris Lynch giving their views on the changes happening within the media world, setting the tone for the first -and in our opinion, the highlight of the morning – panel discussion.

Industry leaders from Virgin, Adobe, Wings Creative Leadership and HSBC provided an insight to some of their past campaigns and the stories that went along with them.

Source: Katie Watts, Acting Senior Press Officer at Money Saving Expert

One of the key learnings was the need to integrate communications campaigns and eliminate a siloed approach. For public relations professionals, this is particularly pertinent when crafting compelling copy that really tells the story of a brand and its journey. According to Tamara Bennett, Head of Media Relations at Virgin, 61% of brands operate siloed campaigns, which leaves us scratching our heads as to why?

Without a holistic approach to communications factoring in paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) media, it’s difficult to maximise the reach of campaigns and even harder to measure and evaluate them.

Take our CIPR Pride gold-winning campaign for the Fishing News Awards last year. This encompassed media relations, social media and influencer engagement to name but a few tactics and helped us share the stories of maritime heroes to a wider audience than ever before.

Technological takeaways

It was clear the focus of CommsCon was very much an always-on, tech-led approach to PR and communications. Cision’s plan to disrupt the PR industry through providing technology and software as a service (SaaS) was apparent throughout and we must admit, its story was compelling.

While “changing the behaviour of public relations practitioners is our biggest challenge” according to Cision CEO Kevin Akeroyd, we must take note of the opportunities there are to enhance our offerings to clients through utilising new technologies where appropriate.

Ten years ago, social media barely existed and now it is central to most PR campaigns. By taking a truly integrated approach to PR, we can ensure we continue to tell stories and build reputations to the best of our abilities.

Tomorrow’s PR Professionals

Rebecca Hankic – Senior Account Manager at Acceleris

Acceleris runs its own training and development programme, the Acceleris Academy, to offer work placements to those looking for a break into the industry, as well as upskilling the team internally. In the last three years, we’ve recruited nine people through the Academy, and offered work placements to dozens more. With the role of PR agencies ever growing and involving, it’s vital to have fresh faces to offer new skills and expertise – so keep an eye on our vacancies page for when we’re next looking to hire!

Our Senior Account Director Ellie St George-Yorke sits on the regional CIPR committee, working to promote and support the PR sector in Yorkshire. As part of a programme of activity working with local students, Ellie and I spoke on a panel as part of a CIPR Meet the Professionals event at Leeds Beckett University.

Around 20 students from Leeds Beckett’s PR course, one of the best in the country, quizzed a panel of PR professionals from agencies and in-house roles across Yorkshire, to find out more about the future of PR and routes into the industry.

With many students looking for their first placements in the industry, how to apply for jobs was high on the agenda, as well as the opportunities in the region and retaining and nurturing young PR talent in Yorkshire.

So below are some of our top tips for getting into PR as discussed at the session – and will hopefully inspire some of the PR minds of tomorrow to stay in the region!

 Tips for getting into the industry

Know your stuff

We get so many applications for work experience and placements, from local schools to colleges, Universities and people looking for their first step into the industry, so we always look for people who have a real interest in the agency, our work and the industry itself.

When applying, familiarise yourself with what’s going on, what campaigns we’ve worked on and what specialisms we have – you’ll get so much more out of your placement and help build your skill set, if you read around the subject and get as under the skin of a client as you can!

Know your worth

This is equally important. Acceleris was one of the first in the region to commit to support Leeds Beckett University’s campaign to pay interns. PR is an incredibly competitive industry, but we’re passionate about supporting everyone in having the opportunity to get experience. If you work somewhere for more than two weeks and are contributing to valuable agency work, we believe this should be recognised. For graduates just out of Uni, it can be tempting to work for free and if you can afford it, it could be a great opportunity – but don’t accept that’s the only way to get work experience – it’s not!

You might also feel you’ve not got the experience to go into PR, but the team at Acceleris has a range of backgrounds, from former journalists to in-house specialists and German and Sports Management graduates! If you want to get into PR, keep at it – don’t let anyone tell you it’s not for you!

Get stuck in

A placement or internship provides a great opportunity to work on a range of different activity and broaden your skill set. Shout up, get involved and have an open mind on what you’re working on – you might think you want to focus on fashion PR and then realise charity campaigns are more your thing!

We’re also a sociable bunch, so if it’s going for a drink after work, making a round in the office or going for lunch, get involved. We love to see team players and you can learn a lot about the industry and what a future role might entail over a pint (or a bottle of prosecco in our Company Secretary’s case!).

 

To find out more about the Acceleris Academy, visit the page on our website or get in touch at info@acceleris-mc.com

 

Hunting For Awards – A Winning Team

The annual Acceleris away day is an opportunity for team-building, improving skillsets and most importantly of all, a healthy dose of competition between colleagues.

This year we embarked upon a Great Yorkshire Treasure Hunt set by our Chairman Nigel. With four teams working through six pages of cryptic clues and directions to take us round the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, it was a race against the (mileage) clock to answer all the questions in the shortest distance.

The winning team, Not Bad Cod Be Batter, pipped Run AMC to the winning post with a mileage difference of just 0.4 and a host of winning selfies.

But it’s not just away days we know about winning. On Friday, we were thrilled to find out we’ve been shortlisted for seven CIPR PRide Awards for the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire region and this year we celebrated winning more than 50 awards in our agency lifetime.

Amongst our gongs we count three European Excellence Awards we’ve won in four years for our Issues and Reputation Management work and the three UK Public Sector Agency of the Year Awards as well as CIPR’s pub quiz team of the year, we’re proud of them all!

But why enter Awards? It’s not just because we’re competitive, honest. Being recognised by our industry builds credibility and recognises the creativity of our team and the results we’ve achieved for clients.

We’ve had clients approach us after seeing news of our awards in the papers or on our website, and the Award wall in our Harrogate office never fails to impress visitors.

Acceleris is a boutique agency with some very specialist credentials and campaigns, but we’ve often fought off big corporate contenders to win Awards – last year we beat IBM and Lidl in the Issues and Reputation Management category, plus – believe it or not – the Catholic Church! To be recognised for our creative thinking and campaigns and hold our own against some big players is testament to just how hard we work for our clients.

The CIPR’s PRide Awards celebrate the very best PR campaigns and teams in the region and we’ve got stiff competition across the region.

We’ve been shortlisted in seven categories (out of seven we entered if you must know) for a range of different campaigns, including our work launching disability organisation Purple, promoting greater autism awareness in airports for Experia, celebrating 100 years of maritime charity Seafarers UK and helping manage the reputation of Britain’s seafarers with trade union Nautilus International.

The results will be announced at an awards dinner on 30 November, but to read a bit more about our award-winning campaigns, take a look at our Awards cabinet.

From Projects to Parenthood

Charley Oakes - Senior Copywriter and Editorial Project Manager

Charley Oakes – Senior Copywriter and Editorial Project Manager

This week I go on maternity leave and the biggest ‘project’ of my life gets ever closer. In the run-up to my temporary departure from Acceleris, time has become more of a theme than usual. There’s an irony there, in that children and good time management are not natural partners (or so I deduce from the more experienced parents at Acceleris!)

Time is an essential consideration when it comes to day-to-day work at our agency. We operate in a sector that is highly creative and results-driven, but also deadlines-driven. Whether it’s plotting milestones in the run-up to a major event, or adhering to a detailed schedule to deliver a new website or publication, effective time management is vital. You’ll hear us utter plenty of mantras here to keep ourselves and our clients on track. ‘Eat that frog’ is one of our favourites, from the book of the same name, the idea being that you start your day by doing the thing you least want to do, which makes the rest of the day by comparison seem more productive. (We don’t actually eat frogs.)

frog

There’s also plenty of time-related buzzwords flying around, such as ‘capacity’ (shudder), ‘resourcing’ (cringe) and ‘allocations’ (ouch), that are nevertheless essential aspects of effective time management.

For someone whose working life revolves around schedules and planners to ensure that client projects are delivered as required, I find the prospect of motherhood throwing time management out of the window, at least at first, refreshing. I follow a number of parent blogs, one of my favourites being Man vs. Baby by Matt Coyne, who marked his son Charlie’s first birthday with a lovely piece recently where he described his post-baby home as “a place where time is chewed up and we are spat out”. He goes on to say “who could have possibly thought that all this was exactly what our home had been lacking?” This seeming contradiction is highly reassuring from the point of view of an expectant parent!

Most of the questions in my head at the moment are about time. Will I get everything done in time? When will Oakes Junior arrive? How many hours of sleep will we get? Will Mr Oakes and I have at least some time to ourselves here and there, even if it’s just five minutes?

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Preparing for parenthood fills your mind with all sorts of contradictions. For example, I’m both reluctant and willing to depart today. I’ve been with Acceleris for nearly eight years so maternity leave represents the longest time I’ve ever spent away from an office and a talented and supportive team of people that are very special to me. However, I also don’t mind admitting I’m looking forward to a few naps before our little human arrives and transforms sleep, time and life as we know it…

See you later, my dear workmates and clients. I now leave (at least for a little while) the Writers Inc. department in the capable hands of my experienced colleagues and fellow copywriters. By the time I’m back I’m sure it will feel like no time has passed at all!

An Evening With Leeds University’s History Makers

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The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society 150th Anniversary book ‘Home from Sea’

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

It’s been a constant source of disquiet for me that our brightest, youngest, most vital minds are sold the fallacy that the world is a barren wasteland of opportunity, with a paucity of enterprise and scant pickings, even for those who achieve straight A’s.

Such is the power of stories.

As someone who has never been out of work since age eight (family business making deliveries on a butcher’s bike) and who most definitely wasn’t a straight A student, I thought it was time to get out amongst our city’s young folk and learn for myself what was happening today.

During my time at the inward investment agency for Leeds City Region, I’d been privileged to hear from some truly inspirational leaders, from the emerging fields of fintech and med tech through to chief executives, operations managers, systems designers and many doctors, scientists, security experts and entrepreneurs. All of them confirmed the need for capable millennials in all sectors.

During my five years with HSBC Bank, I’d also seen inside numerous UK businesses and whether they were based in thriving metropolises or declining mill towns, they still relied on a pipeline of talent to help them achieve their business plans. I’ve always seen a glut of opportunity and plenty of need for workers to drive our economy, but with many of our jobs only coming into existence in the last five or ten years as digital disruption takes hold and transforms what we know, what skills do graduates need to fit in? And why are some graduates still keen to qualify in history?

When a colleague passed me the invitation to the History Society Careers Networking Dinner at Leeds University, I initially thought ‘what skills would history graduates have that we’d need here at Acceleris? Quickly followed by ‘what has history got to do with Public Relations?’ The answer to me quickly became ‘everything’.

At Acceleris, we deal in stories and use the power of a good story well told, to change opinions, win funding, stop hospitals from closing, fight misinformation and stop unsustainable practices. One of our most saleable skills is our detailed knowledge of the past and our ability to analyse the media and economic landscape to spot and tap into future trends and issues.

History is in our taxonomy and how we relate topics, themes and people to each other. Recently we’ve been appointed as project archivist for one of the UK’s oldest maritime charities, The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society. A role which required not only the conservation and cataloguing of images from 150 years of history, but also the authoring and preservation of a cherished story that would be told for years to come in a commemorative 106 page book produced by our Writers Inc. division.

The painstaking research and ability to deal with the minutiae of people’s personal memories, tall tales or vague reminiscences and the physical evidence had everything to do with the skills history graduates learn.

It’s the same with rapid fire news, features or copywriting, which are all based on the ability to listen and understand and to relate those pieces of information to the wider world, giving things context and meaning.

In addition to learning from a syllabus packed with relevant skills, the quality of the student-organised event I attended was also outstanding. The sit down dinner and the round-table approach, where local companies such as Deloitte, Irwin Mitchell and Teach First hosted around eight students each, showed a real razor-sharp insight into delivering the outcomes the group was looking for – so placements, internships and ultimately, employment.

prologue

The prologue to The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society 150th Anniversary book ‘Home from Sea’

These history graduates have certainly taken charge of writing their own life stories.