If you have always wonder what it means to be a good PR consultant, you have to read the interview I had with Sally Keeble who is the founder and owner of Mercer Keeble PR consultant based both in London and Portugal.
Q.: Tell us something about yourself and your PR agency. A.: I launched Mercer Keeble PR in August 2010. My first ever job was with Hill & Knowlton, followed by an in house role with British designer Caroline Charles, and latterly for two fantastic PR agencies in London – Yellowdoor (now Portas) and Halpern. After over 10 years in the industry I decided the time was right to work for myself and to champion brands that I was passionate about. I have always been interested in sustainability and in my agency days this something that was only starting to be talked about. I knew I wanted to specialise in brands with a philanthropic or sustainable ethos, either emerging or more established brands who were leading the way.
Q.: What does your PR agency offer? A.: My goal is to offer big agency experience and expertise but for independent brands. We offer fairly traditional PR services, creating effective and realistic PR campaigns for print and online. We also manage the social media for several of my clients, to ensure the social media runs in tandem with the PR campaign. In addition, part of my role is to help secure retailers so working with buyers and retail platforms to place my clients in these stores (which ultimately helps the PR and sales).
Q.: Have you always worked in the fashion field? A.: After graduating from Edinburgh University my first role was an entry level position as a Junior Account Executive at the global PR agency Hill & Knowlton. Aged 25 I knew very little about PR as I had always wanted to be a journalist for a magazine but I soon knew I had found my niche! I worked in the ethical healthcare sector which, while it was not necessarily my preferred area of PR, it was an amazing company to work for with offices all over the world. I learnt so much from working there and from the team. It was extremely fast paced and long hours and as I was on the very bottom rung of the ladder, I had to learn quickly and be extremely organized, absorbing everything I could. It was an invaluable experience.
Q.: What’s the role of PR’s nowadays? A.: PR is ultimately about communications across many different platforms. PR encompasses so many things, from the traditional PR role such as meeting press, writing persuasive copy, creating newsworthy stories, to implementing and measuring social media campaigns, organising and attending virtual or physical events, facilitating awards, marketing and sourcing retailers. The PR is also an ambassador themselves for the brands they represent.
Q.: Has social media changed the fashion approach also for PRs? A.: Yes, beyond doubt, but it’s interesting that recently I’ve had a couple of clients say they principally want to focus on ‘old school PR’ i.e print press. My feeling is there is very much a place for both.
Q.: What are you clients looking for when they get in touch? A.: Many of my clients are completely new to PR or some come to MKPR having not had PR for a while. It’s important for new or emerging brands to understand that the PR’s role is to create, shape and manage a brand’s image and public perception and PR doesn’t work in isolation. For example effective PR can help drive sales or even create a waiting list for a particular product but sales are ultimately down to the brand – including having an effective marketing funnel and efficient customer service. A regular flow of information between PR and client is key. Every client is different, some like to be very involved and other clients have complete trust. I’ve become great friends with some of my clients – for example my perfume client Art de Parfum I have worked with for 6 years and the Icelandic jeweller Aurum by Guðbjörg for over 5 years. Either way I speak to my clients every day or at least once or twice a week. Ultimately, they are all looking for PR to generate press coverage as well as using PR to build brand awareness and brand loyalty, to shape perception and build a community of both press and consumer fans.
Q.: Do PR agencies and social media cope well? A.: Yes, social media is a vital tool and an intrinsic part of the PR / marketing mix.
Q.: Are magazines ads still important and profitable for brands? A.: Yes, for the right brand or business – but my mantra is always if a magazine is happy to take your advertising spend, they should also want to feature that brand editorially as well.
Q.: What would you suggest to a new brand/designer as far as PR, social media, magazine ads, trade shows? A.: For any new brand or designer starting out, the key is strong imagery – well executed hi res imagery that reflects your mission, ethos and brand offer. Good images are fundamental to any PR campaign and the shots are often the very first touch point with press and ultimately the consumer. Next, I always suggest starting any PR campaign in a manageable way, focusing on realistic press targets in print and online, having a well thought out social media campaign. Working with like-minded influencers who understand your brand is a good way to start to raise brand awareness. I always tell new brands to ensure their Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are all aligned. Strategic advertising can help, as well as offering competitions or entering industry awards which are another great way of getting brand awareness. Trade shows and the industry press are important if you are a brand seeking retail partners. It is also a good idea to take part in press days to get that vital press feedback, or set up one to one press meetings to show and tell your products. If budget allows, pop up shops are a great way to makes sales and also meet your potential customers face to face.
Q.: Are there any PR rules? A.: Whenever I take on a new brief it’s important to be realistic. PR is not advertising, it is not instant, although it can be. I’ve had clients in the past with very unrealistic expectations, thinking they will have 10 pieces of coverage or be on the cover of Vogue after only 1 month of PR. Since the lead time for Vogue is 3-4 months this is also impossible! Effective PR is about being efficient and organised, and being creative – generating ideas, creating story angles, pulling out interesting statistics and being able to put all of these into compelling copy. It is also about timing, from understanding press lead times as well as the best time to approach a journalist with a story. Being kind, thick skinned and patient goes a long way too.
Q.: Is there a brand you really would like to work with? A.: I’ve now got an office in Lisbon too, I would love to work with some more Portuguese fashion and lifestyle brands. Portugal is home to some extremely talented and creative designers, as well as some very innovative concept stores. The Portuguese have a strong tradition of producing exceptional shoes and clothing for the global market.
For more info visit www.mercerkeeblepr.com