ARcade » Public Relations Weblog maintained by Hill+Knowlton Strategies\' global Analyst Relations team. Wed, 30 Nov 2011 02:40:13 +0000 en hourly 1 Exciting news Wed, 09 Apr 2008 14:12:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell H&K’s global AR team has quite a lot of exciting news to announce, but while we’re waiting for that, I thought I’d point out that H&K UK has a new website.

It’s quite a lot zippier than the last version and I even had a new photo taken for it. A prize for the avid reader who finds it in the shortest time!

[Clue: it's only one click away from the homepage]



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Flat News Earth Debate - Fri, 07 Mar 2008 07:09:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell I had an interesting evening two nights ago at the Flat Earth News Debate organised by the Press Gazette following the launch of Nick Davies’ book. The topic for discussion was “Is a culture of “churnalism” destroying real journalism in the UK?”

Top marks to the Press Gazette for attracting a high profile panel that included the author, several very established journalists and editors as well as H&K’s UK CEO – the book is being widely discussed within the PR industry and it’s important that we take part in the discussion.

The full list of panellists was:

  • Nick Davies – Guardian writer, former British Press Awards reporter and feature writer of the year and author of Flat Earth News
  • Andrew Gilligan – the former Today Programme reporter whose investigations into the office of London Mayor Ken Livingstone have prompted a police inquiry and the suspension of one of Livingstone’s closest aides
  • Malcolm Starbrook – editor of the East London Advertiser, a former editor of the Croydon Advertiser and member of the Press Complaints Commission
  • Peter Preston – Observer media columnist and former Guardian editor.
  • Michelle Stanistreet – President of the NUJ and a journalist with the Daily Express
  • Sally Costerton – UK chief executive of PR firm Hill & Knowlton
  • Dominic Ponsford – editor of Press Gazette

The debate did get somewhat sidetracked into a discussion of bad pay within UK journalism, but as this is part of the problem that Nick Davies describes in his book, panellists and audience-members were allowed to run with this theme.

I’ll come clean and admit that I haven’t finished reading Flat Earth News, so my opinions are liable to change somewhat over the coming days, but in short Davies is saying that ownership of newspapers has shifted from benevolent patriarchs who were interested in power and influence to commercial organisations driven by the profit motive.

According to Davies, commercial pressures have led to journalists having to churn out up to ten news stories a day, leading to a failure to check facts and consequently to the publication of many untrue stories.

The situation is exacerbated by a reduction in the number of journalists which results in their taking announcements from official bodies such as courts and the government at face value. To make matters worse, the Press Association, which Davies describes in his book as “the primary conveyor belt along which information reaches national media in Britain,” has replaced a network of local staff reporters and freelance hacks who used to cover news around the country. Davies asserts that the Press Association is woefully understaffed and frequently resorts to passing on information unchecked, only for this to be taken as fact by journalists in the nationals.

The other main argument is that editors are faced with enormous pressures from, for example, the government to publish or not to publish stories. The example of Prince Harry’s recent tour of duty in Afghanistan was cited as a powerful example of press collusion – interestingly a show of hands revealed the audience at the debate to be split down the middle as to whether the press were right or wrong to do so.

While the discussion was largely interesting, the debate was effectively snuffed out by the author himself: several of the panellists, including Peter Preston, Andrew Gilligan and Francis Ingham challenged the factual basis upon which Davies builds his Flat Earth News arguments and it was hugely ironic that he batted away these accusations of poor fact-checking by saying that it was “boring” to get bogged down with the detail. A classic case of do as I say, don’t do as I do…

Hats off to Ingham for the night’s best soundbite: “PR isn’t that powerful, journalists are not that lazy, and the public are not that stupid.” Quite.

What does all that mean for PR agencies like H&K and Influencer50? Well, here’s the hard sell: any erosion of the influence of journalists means that other parties can muscle in and grab mindshare among the customers of our clients’ products and services, so from a selfish perspective it’s good news for PR practitioners who engage with non-media stakeholders.

While we absolutely condemn the plight of journalists and absolutely recognise their lack of numbers, it highlights the importance of identifying ALL the actors that carry weight on purchasing decisions and working to align their agenda with that of our clients for mutual benefit. In other words, less ‘Media Relations’ and more ‘Public Relations’ in its true sense (or ‘influencer marketing’ if you must). In short, it puts a multi-specialist like H&K in a particularly powerful position as we frequently combine our deep expertise in disciplines as diverse as Public Affairs, Change Management and Analyst Relations with sector knowledge in Financial Services, Healthcare and Technology, etc. When combined with top class media relations, the result is a truly powerful marketing communications campaign that reflects directly on clients’ bottom lines.

My colleagues Guy and Niall, being more dedicated bloggers, have already posted their own takes on the debate – the latter demonstrating his note-taking skills by reproducing a good summary of the panellists’ positions.

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H&K UK Strengthens Analyst Relations Offer Thu, 22 Nov 2007 16:13:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell As I mentioned previously, we’ve been working hard in the London AR
team and that’s reflected in the fact that the team is growing – we’re delighted
to announce the appointment of Marc Duke and Agnieszka Augustyniak.

Marc joined the team as a senior consultant in
September and has been bringing his analytical skills to bear on several
accounts. With ten years AR experience gained working at both vendors and agencies,
he is well-known and highly respected in the AR community, having excellent
contacts and broad experience. Marc will be instrumental in continuing to build
our business and is helping us to expand the AR practice into a broader
influencer proposition enabling it to cross-sell into industries outside

Agnieszka also joins the team as a consultant.  Agnieszka joins H&K from the AR team at Tata
Consultancy Services (TCS).  Agnieszka
will help to ensure H&K execute AR programmes across existing accounts.
Moreover, her first-hand experience of working in a major outsourcing company is
already proving invaluable with our current client base.

H&K UK will continue to expand the proposition and
to convert business from existing PR accounts, working closely with the rest of
our global team.  The practice aims to
hire another full-time dedicated AR consultant early next year.

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Social Media Club at H&K London Thu, 08 Nov 2007 18:47:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell Given my post last week, it’s rather timely that H&K will be hosting the London group of the Social Media Club at Soho Square next Thursday evening (15 November).

SMC’s events are fairly informal affairs, with discussion based around a specific social media theme. 

This month’s theme will be the love-hate relationship between PR and bloggers. Most of the attendees are bloggers/podcasters, so will undoubtedly have a point of view on how and if companies should be communicating with them. I’ll be there to represent the AR perspective, but it would be good to have more people along from the AR and industry analyst communities.

If you fancy an evening of healthy debate in the H&K bar on Soho Square, then you can sign up for the event for free here.

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Social media in AR: private melds with public Sun, 28 Oct 2007 23:21:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell I was surprised today when Carter Lusher became my ‘friend’ on Facebook.

Surprised, and slightly concerned because Carter is AR Director at HP Corporate and the main contributor to the HP’s Corporate AR blog, whereas my profile on Facebook is distinctly unprofessional – to set the scene, my profile photo has me dressed as Father Christmas and the most recent ‘stories’ are that I have been ‘cuddled’ and ‘drunk dialled’ by other friends (both of whom I have met and consider to be good friends in the real world, since you ask).

Thankfully, Carter asked me a couple of questions, which allowed me to explain myself. He asked me how I was getting on with Facebook and whether I have managed to weave social media into my work.

My answer was rather long and Carter suggested I post a version of it on ARcade, so here goes:

I’ve been a member of various online communities for about a dozen years, from when I lived in Sweden (1995-1997). I have met many of my closest friends through sites like Shortcut (Swedish language community for young professionals) and Last Thursday (an irreverent place that is currently down for maintenance).

I’m a member of most of the big communities, from Bebo (started by my friend Paul Birch together with his brother Michael and Michael’s wife Xochi) and Dopplr on the fun side to Xing and LinkedIn on the professional front, but I treat them very differently. Much like my (and Carter’s) personal/professional blogs, I consider it appropriate to express myself according to the channel. You won’t find me writing about AR on Facebook, I prefer to leave that to places like ARcade and the IIAR. On Facebook and my personal blog, you’ll read about my exploits at Santacon and, at Christmas time, about volunteering for the homeless charity Crisis, both of which I’m passionate about, but there just isn’t a strong link to work (although I did persuade two colleagues to dress up as Santa last year).

Not long back, I took part in a discussion with the great and the good within H&K and argued that folk should be allowed to access Facebook, etc. on their work PCs. My position is that if we’re not on these sites, we’re lagging behind the competition and that’s professional suicide in PR. The only way to keep up to speed is to experiment. It’s also the best way to find out what’s useful and what’s not – am I the only person who can’t see the point of Me.dium?

Social media is changing business and personally I feel that companies that take policy decisions not to even comment on blogs or engage with social media are myopic and in time it will cost them dearly (even if they can be very useful – we create them for clients and for internal use – an email newsletter is like sooooo 1993!).

Conversely, I’m really pleased that Carter, already a prolific and talented blogger outside work, has started an AR blog – he’s a leading light in AR and practitioners can learn a lot from his posts. Moreover, by engaging in the online conversations, HP will benefit by understanding changes that are affecting the analyst community.

I saw how online communities transformed business life in Sweden, which is several years ahead of most other countries in this space – wait and see what happens to the US and the rest of the world now that we’re catching up.

Social media/the web will force existing unwieldy institutions to adapt or die – witness the Creative Commons, of which I’m a big fan. All mainstream IP systems are creaking at the seams and the Internet is speeding up the process.

Have I managed to weave Facebook into my work? No. My reply to Carter was the first time I’ve ever used it in anything like a professional capacity. Do I use social media in my work? All the time. From Twitter to Cogenz, I’m constantly connected, constantly scanning the web and testing new tools and it makes me and the rest of the H&K AR team better at what we do. We also have access to and use H&K’s proprietary tools.

It’s not surprising that I’m such an advocate, having worked on Language Army and Friends Abroad, both of which base their successful business models on community. I have also guest lectured on social media at Warwick University.

Oh, and to prove my geeky credentials once and for all, I haven’t had a TV for years as I prefer surfing the net to goggling the box.

In short, I’m quite happy to be Carter’s friend on Facebook, as long as he doesn’t expect me to do anything sensible on there.

Top tip: If you’re ever travelling to the Bay area, ask Carter for a restaurant suggestion. I did and can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: HP is a client.

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Kudos where it’s due Sun, 19 Aug 2007 21:49:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell The best PR pitch I ever lost is a great little post by Steve Ellis over at Metia. I read it last week but didn’t have time to post anything at the time and I just stumbled across it again. I like it largely because it’s so optimistic.

Sure, it’s describing a PR pitch rather than Analyst Relations, but I get involved in supporting plenty of PR pitches (as a bare minimum the AR team supplies H&K’s media relations teams with background information when they’re pitching for tech clients, making use of our access to research and our inquiry rights) and the clearer the brief the better.

As well as explaining why the experience of the pitch was so positive – mainly thanks to the quality of the client’s preparation – it seems that Steve and his team internalised the lessons they learned, I suspect to good effect. Too often, the pace of life in an agency means that people simply move on after a pitch (successful or not) without taking the time to think about what went right and wrong.

Hopefully in-house PR teams will read the post and take notes.

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Technology Influencer Survey: UK Results Tue, 03 Jul 2007 23:11:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell On Wednesday 20th June (the same day as Gartner’s Quarterly Analyst Call)
Mark Jackson, UK MD H&K Technologies, presented the UK results of
Hill & Knowlton’s annual survey in which 420 IT buyers were asked
about what influences them when making an IT purchasing decision.
Respondents included decision-makers from both the C-Suite and non
C-Suite (i.e. IT managers).

In general the findings are in line with recent trends, although some people might be surprised by some of them.

Industry analysts
- and not just the
obvious ones – are cited as being a key influence by IT purchasing
decision-makers, especially within large enterprises,
not only at short-listing, which we have long known about, but in the
UK in particular, analysts are influential from right at the start of
the purchasing process through to the end. Verbal consultations
(inquiries) tend to be used at earlier stages, to help decide which
companies should be invited to the table, whereas written reports are
used right up to the final decision. Presumably they are being used to
justify costs to the FD.

It is interesting to note that the percentages of respondents subscribing to Gartner and Forrester Research
are very similar (16% each), but the former is favoured by technical
staff whereas the C-Suite seem to plump for Forrester. Moreover,
Forrester’s research appears to be used regularly as a back-up to
Gartner, but the reverse is not the case: purchasers of Forrester’s
research are more likely to turn to other firms as a secondary source
of industry analysis. Datamonitor and Juniper Research were also mentioned quite often and several ’boutique’ firms came in at around the 7% mark.

Having a positive previous experience is important, especially amongst CTOs, 26% of whom said this was vital.

The credibility and influence of bloggers is growing rapidly
and can no longer be
ignored; although less important in the UK than the other countries
surveyed (Canada, China and the US), 32% of SMBs said that they turn to
blogs as a credible information source. Note that that this fell to 17%
among enterprise buyers, but relevant blogs are worth taking into
consideration especially if smaller companies are a key market.

In contrast to blogs, sales and marketing collateral, including corporate websites, was not rated particularly useful by UK decision-makers (cynical lot that they are)

On the broader media relations front, the FT comes out as a key publication for reaching global
audiences, being widely read in China and the US (although not in Canada) and is seen as trustworthy. Notably, the Wall Street Journal was only read by half as many respondents.

Amongst the trade press, Computer Weekly is popular scored highly as a reliable source. Surprisingly perhaps, Information Age is not widely read by the people we surveyed, but those who do rate it as highly credible.

All told, the survey provides a fair amount of food for thought. If
you are interested in learning more about the UK findings, we have
published a white paper that you can download here.

We also made a recording of Mark’s presentation and you can listen to his analysis by following the link to the attachment below
(I must figure out how to embed podcasts into the body of these
posts…). Sadly, the Q&A section of the presentation was not
picked up by the microphone, but happily that means you miss my

If you would like to speak to Mark or me about the survey, please call me on +44 20 7413 3106

or email dominic.pannell (at)

A video of the presentation is in the final stages of editing and will be published shortly.

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Note to PRs: Work more closely with AR Mon, 25 Jun 2007 17:32:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell Sally W* over at the Getting Ink blog has some advice for technology PRs who are pitching stories to journalists: have a word with the AR team first.

I’ve spoken to several editors over the past couple of years and I’ve noticed that the scepticism that was evident around the turn of the millennium towards PRs suggesting industry analysts is finally dissipating (even if it hasn’t completely gone away). Mind you, I’ve been at great pains to explain that there’s no question of trying to plug a ‘pet’ analyst. Rather, as I commented on Sally’s post, in H&K’s case we’re happy to provide the names and contact details of analysts who we know have been properly briefed on the relevant technology or product that’s being promoted. Let’s face it, any analyst that can be ‘bought’ by a company isn’t worth his or her salt and will quickly lose any credibility.

Talking of credibility, it looks as though the PR teams of some of the analyst firms have their work cut out if Sally’s views are widespread. Forrester, Gartner and IDC can sleep easy; Ovum, Analysys and Butler Group get something of a thumbs up, but other firms (and there’s a fairly comprehensive list on the left-hand margin of this blog) don’t get a look in.

Yankee Group are definitely suffering from a perception that they’ve retreated to the States – it’s not just Sally who thinks so, a couple of anonymous commenters made the same point recently over at Armadgeddon – perhaps Yankee will be able to put the record straight at the next IIAR meeting in July. Jupiter, several of whose analysts are clearly world-class look as though they have some work to do as well (I did just read an article in the New York Times that quoted Patti Freeman Evans).

What of Current Analysis, or Enders, or CCS Insight? The latter continues to attract high profile analysts from the biggest players. I know for a fact that each of these firms has analysts who IT vendors consider it vital to keep informed. Ditto smaller firms like Quocirca, MWD and Freeform Dynamics – again, they have analysts who repeatedly impress some of the most powerful people in business and IT. And where is Datamonitor, which owns Ovum and Butler Group and which is currently being bought by Informa (also missing)?

Now it’s not the job of a journalist to continuously evaluate who’s who in the analyst community; it’s up to the analyst firms themselves and ARs like me to do that. Journalists’ time is tight and, indeed, the main thrust of Sally’s article is an attempt to speed up researching stories; it’s not necessarily going to be possible to persuade a journalist on a deadline that another analyst firm is worth considering. Hopefully, that won’t mean just taking the easy option…

At H&K, we work with the press offices in analyst firms to ensure that the most appropriate person to speak on a subject is ready when journalists come looking, whether or not they work at one of the big firms.

Speaking to the media is not the only reason to brief an analyst (as we’ve said before) but it is one reason, so it’s in the interests of the PR/AR industry that we work with journalists to make sure they’re speaking to the right person at the right time.

*I’m pretty sure it’s Sally W, as she covers technology according to the About page.

EDIT: ARmadgeddon has picked up on Sally’s post and offers some practical advice on how AR can best work with PR. /EDIT

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UK Technology PR "Healthcheck" Survey Mon, 30 Apr 2007 17:15:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell I’m posting this with a degree of trepidation given the recent article by Berlecon analyst Dr. Andreas Stiehler criticising the way that many surveys are conducted (Heidi drew attention to the paper on this blog and it was subsequently translated by Duncan on his).

My colleagues in H&K’s UK PR team recently published a summary of the findings of a survey they ran at the end of 2006 asking in-house PR managers about their expectations for 2007. From my perspective, the results suggest that the immediate future is looking bright as 78% percent of respondents plan to maintain or grow PR budget levels and 15% consider adding Analyst Relations to their media relations efforts to be their key focus for the year.

This certainly seems to be borne out by what we’re seeing in the marketplace. Long may it last!

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Junk email bad, targeted communications good Wed, 04 Apr 2007 08:11:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell This is the loud and clear message from Forrester’s Josh Bernoff in his latest blog post over at The Groundswell. Josh is peeved by the amount of ‘PR-type email’ that he receives.

To be fair, it’s not just analysts who don’t appreciate untargeted email – judging by one of my favourite blogs, The Bad Pitch Blog this is something that annoys people in PR, too, so perhaps it’s unfair to call it ‘PR-type email’; it’s simply bad practice.

I admit I don’t understand the logic of spamming people; OK I accept that true spam-merchants are looking for a miniscule conversion rate, which justifies their misdemeanours from an economic perspective, but surely if your goal is to engage with a sentient being, particularly one who you hope will become an advocate for you or your client, surely untargeted email can ONLY be counter-productive?

In fact, in the six years in which I’ve worked in AR I’ve seen quite a few time-saving ‘tricks’ that are actually counter-productive – for example questionnaires sent round to multiple analyst firms under the guise of an ‘analyst audit’ but which are really only an attempt to acquire ammunition for a new business pitch. True analyst audits are in-depth studies that require considerable investment in terms of time and money. Even then audits are not universally welcomed by analysts (I could post a couple of amusing emails on the subject, but that wouldn’t make me too popular) so a dozen or so self-serving questions that were knocked up in five minutes and lobbed round to a few analysts are unlikely to be well received.

The point I’m making is that if you want to influence people, be they analysts, consultants, academics or whoever, you need to make the investment required to engage with them over time. If you’re just looking for a knee-jerk reaction, then spam away!

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