Agency

1000 666 Jane Hunt

The Ultimate Guide to Account Management for Digital PR 

There’s a lot written about account management already and this certainly isn’t an attempt to rewrite it, challenge or disprove it, BUT, I think digital PR account management commands its own personal space.

So here’s my take..

I’ve spent nearly eight years managing my own accounts, supporting others managing theirs, and mopping up the fallouts, when inevitably things go wrong.

Unfortunately, most account management (like mine) is self-taught, on the job, by making mistakes, and if you’re sensible, Googling it first.

So here goes, this is everything I’ve learnt about account management in digital PR, from communication, scheduling and pitching ideas to reporting and handling that nagging self-doubt.

Let’s start by tackling one of the most important skills required in account management and unfortunately, one of the trickiest to get right – communication.

 

DO agree a communication strategy

When you start working with a new client or team, agree what communication is expected, when and via what channel – some teams love Slack, others prefer a call or weekly email.

I’ve had clients complain in the past about lack of communication, but never about too much communication – so err on the side of caution and they’ll soon tell you if they’re hearing from you too much!

Tip – with clients (and teams) in different time zones e.g. US or Australia, agree set times of the day for communication (you can also add an additional time zone to your Google calendar to streamline scheduling).

I also love this live time zone tool, it shows you what time it is anywhere in the world in relation to you.


DO make sure you stick to your communication agreement

The moment you get sloppy with your comms, your account will start to suffer. You think I’m exaggerating? Give it a go!

What happens is you start to lose the trust you built up with your client and their team and then they start to wonder what you’re doing with your time and how committed you are to their account. Simple. The rest is downhill from there.

 

DO a thorough handover

Off on holiday? Make sure you:

  • Know who you’re handing over your accounts and work to whilst your away AND let your clients know in advance
  • Make sure that handover is like War and Peace – it covers everything your colleagues need to know about the campaigns you’re working on with attachments or links to all the documents and the status of each.

 

DO record all minutes from meetings

This might seem like a particular ball-ache (and it is) BUT it will save you on more than one occasion.

After every call or in-person meeting, make sure you follow-up with thorough notes about what was discussed and actions stating who is going to do what and by when. Then email it to everyone involved in that call/meeting and ask if there was anything missing.

This WILL save you. The next time a colleague or client says “we never agreed that” you’ll be able to prove that you did.

Tip – if it’s an important meeting invite another team member to take notes whilst you control the meeting. It’s really difficult to talk, think and take notes, so take the pressure off and let someone else do that part so you don’t miss anything important and you get all your points across properly.

There are platforms like mindup.co that connect to your calendar so you can take notes for all your meetings (we’re currently trialing this) so we’ll keep you posted on how we get on as this would save a LOT of time!

 

DO have a crisis comms strategy in place

This is a new one for us.

Following a campaign that nearly went sideways just before launch, we agreed with the client that in the future if a crisis were to arise, we would have a communication process in place so both we and the client know who is responsible for what and when.

 

DO be human

Over the years, I’ve found that being professional is good but actually in most social situations (even professional), people want to connect to you, they want to find a way to relate to you.

And when you’ve got a situation that is going wrong, one of the best ways to start to fix that situation is to be human – be open and honest.

Sometimes being honest, admitting some fault and using a little humour can take you a long way in rectifying a situation and can in the long run even improve the relationship.

When I talk about project management, I feel It should be in relation to ‘sprints’ and being ‘agile’ but I think as an agency we’ve worked on too many websites in the past. 

But there are many similarities between creating a website and creating a campaign, both require planning, scheduling, testing and much more.

 

DO use project management software

If you’ve got multiple accounts and campaigns and people working on those campaigns both internally and externally then you WILL require some form of project management support either in the form of a spreadsheet or something a little more sophisticated.

When scheduling our campaigns we use Monday, but you could use Gannt charts, Podio, or any similar project management tool. The key is to use it consistently and share your clients in IF they want.


DON’T rush ideation

When planning campaign schedules, make sure you give as much time to ideation as you do outreach, especially for a campaign / account with high KPIs.

The worst thing you can do is rush the ideation process and put a time limit on your creativity. Factor in plenty of time to revisit ideas, to check their feasibility and if need be, go back to the drawing board.

If you’re in need of some tips and inspiration watch our webinar with Mark Johnstone on the biggest ideation challenges and how to overcome them

 

DO present campaign ideas consistently

Every agency has a different way of presenting their campaign ideas to clients, some prefer a deck, some prefer a doc with tables (us) – may sound boring but we do it for good reason to make sure we’ve really thought about the idea in-depth before getting caught up in the visuals or the format.

However you choose to present your ideas, make sure it’s always consistent so the client knows what to expect and can easily review your ideas each time.

Most of us don’t have the pitching skills of Steve Jobs, even though we’re presenting ideas to teams and clients weekly!

 

DO be persuasive

One of the roles as the account manager is to pitch campaign ideas to the client, to convince the client to trust you with a particular idea or set of ideas. The riskier the idea, the more convincing and persuasive you’ll need to be. This is a skill that comes much easier to some than others, but it can be learnt and there are some great talks and books out there that can help build your confidence in this area.

But in order to really sell an idea, you need to believe in it yourself in order to get behind it, otherwise you won’t be able to talk about it with any passion.

For example, when pitching ideas, we pitch a max of five, any more is overwhelming and we only put ideas forwards if we think they have a good chance of success.

In The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar, she looks at how people make choices and why you need to offer few choices to customers and clients:

“When people are given a moderate number of options (4 to 6) rather than a large number (20 to 30), they are more likely to make a choice, are more confident in their decisions, and are happier with what they choose.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is also well worth a read to understand the psychology of how to relate to people to create better relationships.


DO have a newsjacking process in place

If you want to beat other agencies and brands to the post, you have to be nimble. From the start, we find out what experts our clients have internally and how quickly they can respond with comments or tips etc for newsjacking.

For example we warn clients that they may need to respond in less than thirty minutes to be successful – so a good account manager will have internal experts on speed dial (or the email / Slack equivalent).

In order to secure coverage from newsjacking, the JBH team aims to produce and get content signed off within an hour.

Below is an example of coverage gained newsjacking listicle content off the back of the Amazon’s acquisition of MGM for our client ZenBusines.

 

DON’T forget to track your links

You worked damn hard to build those links, so make sure that spreadsheet is up to date especially if you have LIVE reporting like JBH and your client could check in at any time for an update!

 

DON’T ignore the elephant in the room

So it’s time to provide an update, but you don’t have any new links or coverage to show your client.

The worst thing you can do is not send that email. Instead, think about what positives you can mention (any sniffs from journalists?) and what your strategy will be for outreach for next week – what angles will you focus on / how can you re-pitch it?

Provide a positive update and don’t give the impression you’ve already given up. Because if you’ve set your campaign up right, there’s plenty more angles to be outreached.

 

DON’T go rogue

I’ve heard this happen a few times recently (not JBH) – digital PRs sending out pitches without getting the content signed off by the client first.

This is really reckless, you may just want to get something out, but it destroys the trust you’ve built with your client AND it can land your client in trouble with their management too, especially if they operate in regulated sectors like healthcare, law, finance or education for example.

 

DON’T resort to Twitter

We’ve all been there, we’ve all had bad days with our clients, where you’re butting heads over whether you can launch a campaign or count a tier one nofollow link against your targets.

However, before you have a rant on Twitter or fire off a subtweet (they’ll know), just remember that there MAYBE things going on that you’re unaware of, other stresses on your client. So try not to take things personally and try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment.

Just step away from the keyboard..

Tip – a long time ago I was told never to reply OR send an email when angry. Go for a walk, wait a least an hour to really cool down and then come back with a clearer head.

 

DON’T wing it

As employers we might use the phrase ‘there are no silly questions’ and we mean this.

You might think your manager is sick of your questions and might not be able to handle another, but we’d much prefer you ask a question than just winging it.

Sometimes winging it can result in a methodology being torn to pieces by a journalist or a press release not being signed off which could have devastating consequences for a campaign (and account), so always ask if unsure.

 

DON’T beat yourself up

It’s very easy when things do go wrong to blame yourself and let the doubt set in, but these are always temporary situations that are always fixed and we learn and grow from each experience.

It’s important to see the big picture, that you’re doing a fantastic job overall and this is just a blip. For a reminder of what a good job you’re doing, look back at your successes.

Kirsty Hulse always has great advice on managing self doubt whilst giving us a daily boost..


DON’T overschedule your week

We’re all guilty of seeing gaps in our calendar and cramming more calls in when clients request them and then wondering why we have no time in our day to get work done, but don’t be afraid to question whether that call is actually needed, whether it can wait until your weekly catch up instead.

If in doubt, ask what is going to be discussed on the call and if it’s not urgent, could it wait? Nine times out of ten, it probably can, freeing you up to actually get some work done.

 

DO fake it until you make it

Unfortunately clients need and want to see that their account is managed by someone that knows what they’re doing.

You may have the knowledge and experience but struggle with self-confidence in certain situations like leading client calls or presenting ideas in front of a team. And when you’re presenting ideas and trying to convince a client that they should go for a particular idea, you need to appear confident.

For many years I struggled with confidence and I still struggle with confidence occasionally today in high pressure situations, so I do understand.

In order to tackle my own lack of self-confidence and fear of public speaking head-on, a few years ago I went on an intensive public speaking course which made a world of difference.

There are some really inspiring TED talks about building confidence that I really recommend, and until you’re there, I rate this talk about using power poses to fake it until you make it – they’re fun simple tips and they make you feel good.

It does get easier, it just takes time, trust me!

After writing this, I’m reminded what a difficult job it is being an account manager and how many skills are required to do this role, so hats off to all you AMs out there!

450 300 JBH - The Digital PR Agency

Graduation day: How to land a job in Digital PR?

We’ve all been there: You got your degree and venture out to the job market to find your first role in Digital PR. Landing your first job can be an intense process, but it is worth it. (This applies to any industry, not just digital PR.) That first job will be the foundation of your whole career and we have some tips for you how to get the job you really want in an agency you really want to work for.

Do what digital PR’s do

If you want to work in digital PR, you should early on get into certain habits of digital PRs. This will enhance your cover letter, give you a lot to talk about in an interview and show that you are passionate about the job you are applying for.

Consume Media

In digital PR, journalists are your best friends, and you must understand what they are looking for in a good story and what topics they are interested in. The best way to do this is by reading news and follow the media and you keep reading, reading, reading throughout your whole career.

Pile of Newspapers

Photo by Mike van Schoonderwalt from Pexels

Use Social Media wisely

When we speak of media, we also mean social media, mainly Twitter. This is not about posting pictures on Instagram, it’s about following the right people on Twitter and LinkedIn. Find those that are already working in digital PR and follow them. See what they are talking about and you’ll always know what the industry is doing. Here are a few accounts to follow for some serious digital PR inspiration:

Follow blogs and webinars

Agencies and digital PR do not only talk about their industry on social media. Most of them have their own blogs and run regular webinars or expert roundups. These sources will also tell you what the industry is currently talking about, plus you will find tips that will help you master digital PR better than any textbook could, because the information in webinars is based on real case-studies and experience always trumps theoretical knowledge. The JBH Missing Link Webinar features talks from industry experts and journalists. For example, we have talked about pitching to personal finance journalists and newsjacking, and you can view all of the previous webinars here.

Read inspiring books

When we say that you can put the textbooks aside, we do not mean that you should stop reading. What we are saying is that you should read books that are based on real job experience and are written by people doing the job you dream of. The probably most-read marketing library is by Seth Godin, but there is a whole list of marketing books to indulge in.

Pile of books. The book on top folds up in a circle.

Photo from Pexels

Get experience

In certain ways, digital PR is no different than other industries: experience is what makes you better at the job and as a recent graduate, experience is what makes you stick out. Not only will your CV get attention, but you will also have more things to talk about during the interview.

If you cannot find any internship opportunities in digital PR, have a look at the wider digital marketing space or journalism. If you widen the scope in your search for practical experience, there will be more opportunities to go after and any digital marketing experience will be beneficial for your career in digital PR. Practical experience in journalism will give you insights into the industry you will be mostly working with. Knowing how journalists think will be your secret weapon.

Hands-on

If you still cannot find opportunities to get work experience, why not make your own opportunities? Starting an own blog has never been easier than it is today. Write about a topic you are passionate about and see how it unfolds. Learn how to create engaging content, how to promote it and how to grow your readership. Your own blog will not only be a learning resource, it can also become your portfolio. Do something you are proud of and show it to the world.

Hands reaching a document to each other

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Keep on applying

The same applies to your job application for digital PR roles: Do something you are proud of. Creativity is key in this profession and a creative cover letter will certainly get attention and make you stand out.

All of the above does not only apply to recent PR graduates, but it is also for everybody else who wants to land a job in digital PR. What that means is that a PR degree is not an entry requirement, it gives an advantage, but there are other things that hold more weight in your CV and your portfolio. We have seen successful digital PRs with degrees in psychology, history, art or languages. Let not let a degree stop you from going after the things you want. What is more important is passion and experience. If you love what you do, you will become great at it.

That being said, do not let a failed job application weigh you down. We have all been rejected and redirected towards something that was more meant for us. Keep on applying, keep on going for what you want, and you will get it. Head over to our careers page to see the latest roles we have available at JBH.

1000 666 JBH - The Digital PR Agency

Digital PR in a Day: Here’s how to fit it all in

Digital PR professionals usually wear many hats. In a brainstorming meeting, you are the creative. When you open your email inbox in the morning, go through those replies you received and update all your contact lists and reports accordingly, you’re the admin. In a client meeting, you are the face of the agency. When preparing data-led campaigns, you are the project manager for researchers, designers and writers. If you are in a managing position, you also want to make sure to have time for a one-to-one-catchup with your team members. If that is not enough, your account manager might swing through the door at any time requesting additional information on the campaigns’ progress to update the client. Time management becomes crucial – even on quiet days in digital PR.

Get the most out of a project management tool

Yes, in the same way that a project manager handles all agency proceedings, you should manage your own time and work. Your team is most likely using a project management tool like Asana, Trello or Monday.com to communicate tasks and deadlines. Make use of it!

Create your own project board

Did you know that all of these tools allow you to create your own boards? You can split tasks into smaller sub-tasks and assign individual deadlines. If a project is due next Friday, you can break it out into smaller steps with a milestone being due every day. That will save you from staying longer on Thursday evening. When creating your own board, you can also add recurring tasks, e.g. reporting every last Friday of the month or an hour daily to reply to emails. The tool will automatically copy those tasks and remind you depending on the frequency you assign.

A handwritten to do list in front of a calendar.

Deadlines, priorities, and reminders

Project management tools also allow you to add priorities to each task and set up email reminders. If there is something due in 3 weeks, maybe set a reminder for the week before. If you plan to pick up a task again in a few days, add the file (or links to the files if they are saved in the cloud) to the task in your project management tool. That way you will not have to spend additional time searching for the file to find out where you had left off.

Plan your week

If you come into the office on a Monday morning, take 15 minutes to plan out your week. Your project management tool tells you what is expected from you every day (including recurring tasks), your online calendar tells you which meetings to account for. Estimate how long each task will take and create a schedule for the week, similar to the class timetable you had in school. You can even put those in your calendar to reserve that time for the particular task. Although, I like to write this down on a piece of paper that goes on the wall next to my desk. That way, it is always visible when my online calendar or project board is hidden behind multiple windows and tabs on my screen.

And now the most important tip of all: If you notice that your week carries too much for one human being to handle, have a chat with your manager. Certain deadlines might be adjustable or there might be another team member to take some of your workload.

An alarm clock in between stationery on a desk

Photo by Jeshoots.com from Pexels

Scheduling calls and meetings

When it comes to meetings and calls – either internal meetings or client-facing ones – try to schedule them in blocks. If you have meetings cluttered all over your day with 30 minutes in between each of them, you lose that entire day to meetings. Small gaps between meetings are not helping with productivity. You need 15 minutes now and then to refill your coffee or go to the bathroom, but 30 minutes are too much for a bathroom break and too little to get any work done. Keep that in mind when scheduling your meetings and calls. That brings me to the next point: breaks! You deserve them!

Don’t skip your lunch break

When you plan your day and estimate how long each task takes, ensure to also leave some room for breaks. Get a refill in your cup, get up and stretch every once in a while. Your back and hips will thank you for that. A little walk to the kitchen to refill your water glass gets you moving, and you make sure that you drink enough throughout the day. If you tend to forget these things, why not set a calendar reminder?

Even on the busiest days, one thing you should never do is skipping your lunch break. You need to eat, and you need a longer screen break. If you are struggling with that, make an appointment. This can be a lunch with your colleagues. If you are using a communications tool like Slack, you can create a channel with your lunch time buddies. Even there, you can set a reminder every day that reminds you of your lunch appointment in the office kitchen.  Another way to do this is to book a sports class in your lunch break. Many gyms offer 30- or 45-minute classes of all kinds of sports starting with a relaxing stretch class up to high intensity training. If you are working from home, you can take an online class. You book them, you pay them and that will be your motivation to not skip your lunchbreak. Plus, you get the additional benefit of a workout.

On a side note: You can also add those to your calendar.

An hourglass filled with red sand.

Focus

Seems like you are all set to make it through the week, meet all deadlines without having to stay longer. There is one thing though to keep in mind: Your estimates about the time a task takes are only working if you focus. You are human! We all lose focus from time to time and procrastinate a little. There are some precautions you can take.

The most obvious one is to switch off any distractions which includes notifications on Skype or Slack. Close your email programme and switch those notifications off too. Not to forget your phone: put it away.

Getting things done

If you know that your thoughts might drift off, try the pomodoro technique. Set a timer to 20 or 25 minutes. Whilst the timer is running, you keep the focus on the task. When the timer is up, you take a break. A more advanced way of this technique is an accountability buddy. Partner up with a trusted colleague. You meet at the coffee machine 15 minutes before your day starts, have a little chat and you both plan your day. You both write down what you want to get done by lunch time. When you then meet for lunch, you can quiz each other about your progress. That way, somebody – who is not your manager – will hold you accountable in a friendly way for the goals you set in the morning. You can also identify reasons why a plan failed. Maybe you miscalculated the time it would take? Maybe you got distracted and you can now identify exactly how this distraction looked like and discover ways to prevent it tomorrow.

Change of environment

There is another tip that might help if you start to lose focus on your work. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it has certainly worked for me. Changing environment is like resetting your brain. When you are in the office, work from the coffee area, the kitchen or a meeting room. If your manager agrees, you can work from the coffee shop across the road. This will also prevent any colleagues interrupting your thoughts with questions. When you are working from home, maybe try the dining room or even the sofa or the garden for a certain time and go back to your desk for the next task on the list.

End of day

It means exactly that: END of day. Your workday finishes by 5.30 or maybe 6 pm. Get up, leave and do something else. We are all guilty of staying long hours because we just want to get that one, quick thing done. The moment we realize it, it is 8 pm and the quick thing had turned into 2 hours. When working in an office it is a reminder when your colleagues start leaving the office. If you are regularly staying much longer than them, something must change. Have a chat with your manager if your workload is too high for you alone to handle.

A sure way to leave the office on time is to have plans for the evening: another sports class, a dinner with friends or even your weekly grocery shopping.

When working from home in times of lockdown, it is very tempting to just keep on working until you fall asleep or get hungry. The things you used to look forward to at the end of the day are not possible and this means you have to find other things. Have a dinner with your housemates or your partner. Pick up a new hobby that you do in the evenings. The online sports class you could have done in your lunchbreak is possibly scheduled again in the evening. Read a book or take a long bath. Enjoy your evening and be proud of everything you achieved that day!

1024 682 JBH - The Digital PR Agency

70% Of In-house Marketers Aren’t Listened To By Outreach Agencies

The shift towards a natural, PR led approach to backlink acquisition, comes with so many positives.

We have seen an increase in job opportunities for a brand-new discipline, an overall higher standard of work, and it has led to the birth of a flourishing community under the SEO umbrella.

But this doesn’t come without its drawbacks. A lack of understanding or synergy between the client and the agency can result in frayed early relationships and burned bridges before any contract is even won.

But why?

We got in touch with 15 senior in-house marketers to find out what it’s really like to be pitched to by Digital PR & Outreach agencies. And they didn’t hold back.

We asked them about the internal challenges they face when electing a supplier, and we sought to find out whether agencies are sympathetic to these challenges during initial conversations.

Of the people we spoke to, more than two thirds said that agencies had failed to listen to their requirements in some way, and had neglected to understand their internal situations and nuances.

Andrew CoCo, Senior SEO Manager at the Walt Disney Company explains how he feels like his requests fall on deaf ears when working with outreach focused agencies:

“Most of the time I feel like I am being talked to rather than truly listened to”

Richard Shove, SEO Consultant for Samsung, told us:

“There’s a big difference between being listened to and being heard by outreach and PR agencies.”

Let’s unpack these comments so we can understand why the client agency relationship is so disjointed, and identity ways to make everything more aligned.

– So where are agencies going wrong?


Drop the dictatorship because clients aren’t laymans

The notion that agencies know best and that clients need ‘educating’, isn’t new in any industry, and it would seem that SEO and digital PR agencies are no exception.

In a quest to ‘pioneer’, agencies often neglect to consider that clients are knowledgeable specialists that understand the business and industry that they work in much better than us.  Outreach agencies know what will get links, but we can’t just assume that a one-size-fits-all approach will work for every client.

Chris Hutchings, CMO at Quidco, captures this sentiment:

“The very best outreach suppliers always engage the client in the process, particularly as they know that we (should) know our own business and sector inside out.”

Support and collaboration is what will help us to forge solid working relationships with potential clients. It’s also worth remembering that many in-house marketers have worked agency side.

One of those is Richard Shove, SEO Marketing Manager at Samsung. He told us that agencies need to be humble and really listen to what their clients are saying:

“My experience is that agencies believe they know best and this is to their detriment. The mistake that they have made in the past was to assume they naturally had all the answers”says Shove, who has also headed up organic search for brands including Notonthehighstreet.com, Farfetch, and global agencies such as OMD.

It’s easy to see how relationships between outreach supplier and client can go this way. Agency cultures centred around being ‘leading-edge experts’, have helped to cultivate this toxic way of working.

We wrongly assume that we need to enlighten the client, and even replace what they and their teams are doing, rather than operating as extensions of them (something we’ll discuss later on in the post).

This can mean that we dictate rather than listen, and we ultimately end up sabotaging working relations before they begin.

 

Understand potential clients before you attempt to work with them

Turgay Akar, who heads up Global SEO at Playstation, explained that he often feels as though he is looked down upon as ‘just a technical SEO’ by agencies who pitch outreach strategies. Commenting further, he went on to say:

“Agencies can make the mistake of wrongly assuming that I have no understanding of what gets shared or generates links. They fail to understand what technical SEO actually means in that respect.”

We doubt this particular agency would have made this mistake if they’d had Hannah Bryce, Head of SEO at Holland & Barrett, on their team.

“Just checking your prospective clients out on LinkedIn should tell you whether they’re likely to have built links themselves before, or worked with others that have… In my opinion, the worst thing you can do as a potential partner is to assume your client knows nothing and pitch at that level. Do your research and your clients will listen instead of inwardly rolling their eyes and switching off while you explain what Domain Authority is.” 

We need to get our fact-finding down to an art. Before we get to the first conversation stage with a prospective client, we should have a solid idea of who we are going to be speaking to if we are to pitch at the right level.

Are they at a level in the business that would be pretty far removed from any granular understanding? Or like Tugay, is being ‘schooled’ the very last thing they need. It’s a minefield, but we need to consider these things. We can’t even begin to prepare for the next stage without this knowledge.

Also referring to a need for outreach agencies to do better at pre-pitch due diligence, Hannah Bryce of Holland & Barrett says :

“It’s hard to pitch to every level in the room. So make sure you research your key contact and spend time talking at their level before pitching to a group of people who probably know far less about the ins and outs of outreach and digital PR.

Hannah warns against going into too much detail and losing the room:

“Similarly, if you go too granular, people who don’t know what you’re talking about can switch off and if they’re the ones holding the key to the budget, it’s easy to lose your chance. Very rarely (if ever) do I get asked ‘how much do you already know about this?’ or ‘How much does your director know about this already’ before a pitch goes ahead.”

 

No question is a silly question

Outreach agencies need to be certain that they are on the same page as the prospective client. So many of the scenarios cited above could have been avoided if the right questions had been explored by the agencies.

Typically, they should make it their mission to be clear on the following:

  • What success really looks like for the client. Is it really just the links or are other KPIs going to be a factor?
  • Are you dealing with the decision maker, or are you going to have to tailor the pitch to other stakeholders?

 

Be aware of any red tape in order to get a head start

It’s not just the people we need to be familiar with. Internal restrictions, processes and ways of working are also something we need to be fully up to speed with as much as we can before we pitch.

Offering a solid example. Owain Lloyd Williams, SEO Manager for PeoplePerHour told us:

“Any good in-house SEO will be familiar with issues like internal politics, CMS restrictions and project feasibility, and there is where there can be a disconnect with the “blue-sky thinking” that agencies sometimes bring to the table, which can be time-wasting”.

 

Don’t compete with internal teams – win their trust

For example, as outreach specialists we know that we operate in the same arena as the traditional PR team. This isn’t news.

Whether agencies like it or not or whether they agree with what they are doing, they are also the client. We need to work with them and to gain their trust.

Richard Shove talks about a need for agencies to understand and acknowledge the fact that  although outreach and digital PR suppliers are working towards SEO goals, the nature of our strategies mean that budgets may need to come from other departments too.

“Agency credentials won’t be known outside of the SEO team… Sign off processes are the real killer – There is often a question around budgets for outreach and whether they sit under PR and brand as well as SEO”.

This means that the PR teams are our client too!

Kieron Hughes, Director of Organic Performance for PortSwigger says:

“You then add digital PR to the mix, which is trying to be more agile and gain online coverage/links on a regular basis, and it can lead to a difficult relationship – The challenge is in working to establish respect on both sides. It will help to remove friction, but also help to achieve more collaboration which will ultimately deliver better results.”

One surefire way to break the ice between agencies and internal teams is to go in and pitch the very things they are already working on.

Manisha Mehta, PR & Outreach Manager at Mojo Mortgages describes a situation where the pitching agency was essentially pitching for her job!

“I’m from an agency background, and one thing I noticed when I moved in-house was that a good few agencies who pitched to me didn’t realise that I was actually doing the work they were pitching to me, or the fact that I actually had a strong digital team around me, so I had a fair amount of knowledge about anything that was technical SEO/outreach related.” 

You’ll start to spot a trend here, because Kelly Edwards, SEO Manager at insurance specialist Howserv, believes that, in her experience, outreach agencies need to make it their business to be familiar with the people within their organisation, and to be more aware of the work that is going on behind the scenes.

“I have been pitched to by a few outreach agencies  who have announced that they’ve stumbled onto some amazing opportunity that we’ve clearly missed…Not only ca this be incredibly patronising to assume that we don’t know what we’re doing, but in a pitch is dangerous as is making assumptions on the business or direction without having embedded into the business or understood our priorities”.

Owain Lloyd Williams of PeoplePerHour, cites another example:

“I’ve had examples where an outreach/Digital led agency has emphasised avenues that the in-house team has explored previously because they haven’t properly probed on past efforts or brand history”.

 

Agencies are extensions of internal teams – not replacements

As Digital PR specialists, we have all had our media lists reviewed by the internal PR team, or have to field requests from branding teams wanting to to display large company logos on our campaigns.

But have you ever stopped to consider the intent behind the requests? To do this effectively, we have to understand how an organisation works and what makes it tick. This includes understanding the people that work there. What are they contributing and what is most important to them?

The answer to these questions will enable us, as service providers to nurture strong relationships with internal teams and be able to relate to their own challenges. Only then can we truly begin to deliver something of value.

A great example of effective client-agency workings came from Stephen Morris, Head of SEO at high-end furniture retailer OKA.

I spoke with him at length about this topic, and he explained the following:

“We’ve tweaked how we work with our agency slightly, so instead of them creating a list of “agency tasks” and us doing “in-house stuff” we compile everything that needs working on into Monday.com (our workflow platform of choice) & consider all the work in its entirety across the entire available resource. So now we have one overall picture of what needs doing and we allocate it to whoever in the team is best-placed to do the work when it needs doing – whether that be someone in-house or someone at the agency. We’re one team working on one project.”

He goes on to say;

“We still discuss new tasks monthly – some originate from us, some from the agency, but everything goes into one project plan and is prioritised, regardless of source. As the client I “own” the plan and it’s totally flexible – we can change priorities more easily if something new comes up, we could scale up resources to get things done quicker or if someone leaves or – God forbid – we change agency, the plan goes on.  It’s totally open – everyone can see everything and everyone’s input is welcome, because we’re a team, whether we’re directly or indirectly on the OKA payroll

 

It’s time to build bridges

Once you have familiarised yourself with the who’s who of the organisation, it’s time to build bridges with them

A lack of synergy between internal and agency teams can exist due to a reluctance from the supplier to spend time forging healthy working relations with them. Either way, the strains are real.

Manisha Mehta, of Mojo Mortgages reveals that synergy is important when you have a lot of moving parts to manage.

“Agencies need to work with others and collaborate if they are to work with us long-term. If you have different agencies for different marketing channels, then there’s no doubt that your digital PR/outreach agency will have to work with them at some point, and synergy is really important – An agency that’s able to build consensus with others is a huge asset and you’ll be able to see that collaboration shine through in the work they produce” 

When discussing an absence of any effort from agencies to build relationships with internal stakeholders for the brands she has worked at in the past, Hannah Bryce of Holland & Barrett said:

“They (outreach agencies) need to be able to work with internal stakeholders and potentially existing external PR teams.”

Supporting this, Wayne Thompson, Head of SEO at Colewood Internet informed us that the final decision is often above his head and nurturing those key stakeholders will pay dividends in the end.

“When outreach/PR agencies pitch to companies, from my experience, they really don’t take internal stakeholders into consideration”.

And Chris Hutchings of Quidco adds:

“Agencies need to take into account that the client will have their own stakeholders/internal challenges to consider.” 

PortSwiggers Kieron Hughes, talks about his struggles when it comes to building effective working relations between outreach agencies and his internal PR team.

“For larger businesses, they likely already have traditional PR expertise either in-house or agency. The biggest challenge I’ve experienced is in achieving the right levels of collaboration between traditional PR and digital PR.” 

 

Understand the business, the brand AND the industry

Owain Lloyd Williams explains that, more often than not, he does not feel listened to by outreach and digital PR suppliers who fail to understand him and the business.

“Agencies will of course want the best for their clients from a purist SEO standpoint and will convey this during the pitch process. What they fail to do is tie things back to actual tangible business objectives and internal goals.”

Richard Shove once again sums this up perfectly, saying:

“The best agencies are the ones which really listen and understand the nuance of the business, and adapt their strategies/proposals to reflect that.”

 

A lack of industry knowledge can cost you the pitch

Andrew Dipper, Global Head of Digital Marketing for Frank Recruitment Group, explains that a lack of niche industry knowledge from the agencies he has encountered in the past is one of the reasons why building a mini agency in-house proved to be a better option for him.

“Over time our team has developed a strong understanding of our business so know what our story is, who our key people are, what tactics work and what won’t, how our competitors in the market operate. It’s that business and industry knowledge that’s essential for me, and an area I think marketing agencies sometimes struggle to develop and maintain when they’re juggling plates across multiple industry verticals and clients.”

 

Are we valuing creativity too much over client goals?

The cracks in client-agency relations may come from our fixation on creativity and a desire to be ‘specialist experts’ above any consideration for business objectives.

Often agencies get a client brief, it states that they want x amount of high-quality, topical links per month or quarter. Tunnel vision will inevitably creep in and we put forward self-centred strategies rather than those that take other channels and stakeholders into account.

An all singing, all dancing campaign about Love Island that will appeal to ‘mass media’ will get the links. Right? Maybe so, but unless that ties in with their overall business objectives and goals, then internal stakeholders are never going to see the value of what we do.

Sam Pennington, Head of SEO for Missguided, agrees;

“I have been pitched to many times, and most agencies do not understand the company at all. The requirement is far more complex than just gaining links”.

Dylan Mazeika, SEO Manager at Business.com told us that he’s looking for agencies who are the missing piece of the puzzle

“The best pitches I’ve had really started with a meeting where we all got on the same page about what my organizations KPIs were, where this agency etc fit into that puzzle, and how their work would directly impact the bottom line for those KPIs.”

“There ultimately has to be a balance, but at a very basic level, I would expect an agency to have an understanding of why we need links, and what type of activity would it take to achieve the performance goals” – says Kieron Hughes, of PortSwigger.


And what if you win the business?

Although we’ll cover effective onboarding within the next post of this series, the bare minimum of what we should be doing is familiarising ourselves with every nuance from the get go.

Every way of working that may affect the delivery of what we do should be clear to us, and we need to continue to ask the right questions so that we are aware of any internal politics, the organisational structure, and the active projects and work that the internal teams are already doing.

Bryce who is also cofounder of the SEO SAS podcast, explains more about her view on the research process:

“Once a client is onboarded, kick off meetings are key to ironing out ways of working while learning what their internal teams are already doing or have been doing. Until you have done this, you don’t even know if you are delivering any value with the strategies you put forward.”


Conclusion:

We should indeed be delivering innovative work, but it shouldn’t be at the expense, or in ignorance of the overall business goals or unique situations of clients. 

We also shouldn’t be assuming the client has completely neglected to think of these strategies themselves, and unless we take the time to find this out in the beginning then we risk alienating them from the offset.

  • As agencies, we need to start seeing ourselves as extensions of existing teams and not replacements
  • By being better at understanding a business before we push strategies, we stand a better chance of hitting the mark for them
  • We also need to be greater at understanding and empathising with roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder and the challenges they might be facing internally
  • Following on from the above, we actually need to listen too. Because as Richard Shove of Samsung explains: “There’s a difference between being listened to and being heard”

Once we do this, we stand a better chance of building long-lasting working relations that can be nurtured over time – equally beneficial for both client and agency.

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JBH the Digital PR Agency Doubles Turnover During Lockdown

Manchester agency secures Digital PR accounts with British furniture retail company Heal’s and Online Estate Agent Emoov.

Manchester agency JBH has reported an increase in turnover of 134% in the last 3 months of 2020, doubling the digital PR arm of the business.

The company works with leading brands such as Gousto, Money.co.uk, Uswitch, Tails.com and Victorian Plumbing.

The agency was founded in 2013 by Jane Hunt, Andy Blason and Aran Jackson and moved to Manchester in 2018 to build the digital PR team and grow the client roster.

Manchester Digital PR Agency Wins Competitive Pitches for Emoov and Heal’s

Manchester digital PR agency JBH has been appointed by online estate agents Emoov and furniture retail company Heal’s to deliver digital PR campaigns to build their visibility in search.

Following a highly competitive pitch process, JBH were selected based on their proven success with other brands in the property vertical and the strength of the concepts presented throughout the pitching process.

CEO Stepan Dobrovolskiy said this about the appointment of JBH for their Emoov brand: “The team and I are very excited to announce that we’ll be working with JBH on our ongoing digital PR campaigns. We felt that the team understood that the future of the property market is digital and this was reflected in the concepts that were presented at pitch stage.”

Jane Hunt, co-founder and Marketing Director at JBH added: “Emoov has an impressive history and we are thrilled to be appointed as their digital PR agency at such a pivotal time for both their brand and for JBH”

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We’re on a Roll! JBH Scoops Best Social @ CIM Awards

Well, what can we say? Last Thursday, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) held its annual Marketing Excellence Awards ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House.

We’re delighted to announce that we brought home Best Use of Social Media. Who did we beat? Only Facebook – no biggie.

The CIM awards ceremony, hosted by Katherine Ryan, saw marketers from all over the world come together to celebrate their achievements and the moments that helped shape conversation in the industry over the past year.


The winning campaign

CIM Marketing Excellence Award… Never a doubt. #teamjbh

A post shared by JBH – The Content Agency (@jbhinfluence) on

Our campaign with The Wall of Comedy boys beat off strong competition including De Montfort University, the National Gallery, Boost Energy Drinks, Filippo Berio and even Zuckerberg himself. To say we’re feeling excited is an understatement.

Not all campaigns have big, glossy budgets. We’re proud to work with some huge global brands but we are equally proud to work closely with niche organisations to make their brands and campaigns stand out creatively.

Umbrella brand Reed in Partnership gave us total creative freedom to develop the campaign and select the most effective channels. Opportunities like this don’t come along often in our industry and we were excited to be offered a blank canvas and work with an inspiring nonprofit brand we were confident people would be interested in.


Why we believe it’s a winner

Our target audience of young BAME Londoners are difficult to reach and harder to engage. We had to attract their attention in a way that was relevant, authentic and inspirational.

Research told us that social video (specifically Facebook) would be the most effective way of reaching the target demographic:

  • Social is the most popular source of video content among people aged 13-24
  • 91% are watching social video for an average of 5.9 hours per week

We believe that influencer marketing only works in the hands of the right influencer; not just someone that the target demographic recognises, but someone they identify with and trust. We knew that getting the right influencer on board would bring a level of reach and credibility to the campaign that we couldn’t achieve on our own.

We had seen content from The Wall of Comedy on social media. They had everything we didn’t: a network of social platforms that reach 35,802,000 people, a Facebook audience where 46% of their audience is 18-24 (the target audience) and a proven track record in creating funny content. Most importantly, they had credibility and trust with our target audience. In their own words:

“We don’t just know our target audience – we are them and they are us.” – Joivan Wade, CEO The Wall of Comedy

We thought it was going to be difficult to persuade a government-backed initiative to work with such an edgy influencer but the client could see the value of working them immediately. The team trusted us with our edgy idea and it paid off big time.


Oh what a night!

Why not. #teamjbh

A post shared by JBH – The Content Agency (@jbhinfluence) on

So well done to us! Another awards ceremony, another well-deserved hangover. We had a fabulous night with Reed in Partnership, eating, dancing and partaking in the occasional orange juice. Victories like this really spur us on. We’re committed to the cause and can’t wait to see how our campaigns will shape up over the next year.

Well done to all of the night’s winners – there were some truly incredible work on display and we feel honoured to be counted among the established agencies and brands represented in the Grosvenor last Thursday.

Lastly well done to our team for all their hard work. Though we be but small – we are mighty. #TeamJBH 🙂

Looking for some award-winning content for your brand? Get in touch with our content marketing team and let’s get cracking – next year’s awards season is only 12 months away!

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Officially an Award-Winning Agency!

Last night we spent an unforgettable night celebrating with our awesome clients Reed in Partnership at the CMA International Content Marketing Awards where we were up for two awards for our YESldn campaign.

We’re absolutely thrilled to have received Gold in the Best Social category and Silver in the Best Video – Series category. We were so excited to be shortlisted and have our big night out we didn’t dare to hope that we could place – let alone win!

Hearing our lovely host Katherine Ryan announce us as the winner of the Gold prize in the Best Social category really was a magic moment. When Katherine said that the winning team had produced big results on a small budget realisation and excitement flooded across the table and when we finally heard the name of our campaign we just went crazy!

This was a campaign we are exceptionally proud of. We are a small team competing in an arena populated with some hugely successful agencies and global brands. Being recognised for what can be achieved with a little creativity feels like a big win for the little guy.

The CMA had this to say about our achievement:

“JBH were tasked with delivering a campaign that would inspire the target audience to sign up to the YESldn programme via the campaign website, driving a surge in sign-ups and creating awareness of the service. With a limited budget and hard-to-engage audience, the content agency chose online comedy trio The Wall of Comedy to film a series of videos showing extreme, funny scenarios that could be related back to common job-related anxieties.

The results thrilled both client and agency. Facebook video views topped 650,000, with over 4,600 engagements, while overall reach came in at almost 2.5m. More importantly, sign-ups to the YESldn service increased by 1,425% as a direct result of the campaign.

The judges were unanimous in giving this entry Gold, thanks to its “outstanding results on a low budget and fantastic resonance with the audience.” Iris’s work for adidas pops up again to claim Silver for its Neo Snapchat campaign, which the judges called a “fascinating creative solution that overachieved on its KPIs,” while MEC Wavemaker grab Bronze for their #Wimblewatch campaign for Evian, deemed a “fresh approach to Wimbledon content that has great brand synergy.””

All that was left to do was celebrate and we partied the night away in style. The Content Marketing Awards are something else, the room was buzzing with positivity and it was great to spend the evening in the company of so many accomplished creatives.

With a set of matching sore heads we’re back in the office, excited about our success and what it might mean for the future of our agency.

The boys share a victory hug

Andy is obviously not bothered

Aran celebrating with Oli from Reed in Partnership

Home safe and sound