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Here Comes Spring

I can’t believe it’s March, I feel as though I have lived the year. Work has been full throttle and it has been exciting.

In January, I started as a visiting lecturer at Coventry University, teaching my book, The PR Knowledge Book to their second year degree students and am really enjoying it. According to The Guardian University Guide 2020, Coventry is ranked as the 15th best university here in the UK, it is the 1st for Overseas Student Experiences, based on student trips abroad from HESA 2017/18 UK data; is 2nd for Teaching Excellence according to the Times Higher Education UK metrics ranking 2017 and was University of the Year for Student Experience 2019, according to The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019.

Wondering what it is like teaching? Well it’s exhausting, as it demands all your attention and yet inspiring at the same time. It is inspiration to be in a room with the potential next generation of publicists. I am also learning, learning about the future and what will drive the next generation forward.

I have also taken on a few short term client projects and podcasts are popular. I have discovered that everyone seems to have a ‘podcast in them.’ Podcasts are popular because they are an easy-to-consume format for both business and personal topics. This year the podcast industry is going to grow even faster with a flurry of advertising activity and technological changes, which is great news for content creators and listeners. A staggering, 80% of people will listen to an entire podcast episode, or most of it, indicating that podcast listeners are very engaged in the content.

I was invited to moderate a panel organised by A Greener Festival for their annual conference. The session was titled, ‘Sustainable Sponsorship, Brands and The PR Greenwash Wobblies!’ and on the panel were Gary Pitt, Alive Activation, UK; Jacqueline Hochreiter, Budweiser Brewing Group; Adam Pearson, O2 and Zac Fox, Kilimanjaro Live.

During the session we lifted the lid on what impacts brands are having, who is pushing boundaries, what is the best practice, and where do we go from here. It was a great conversation where one of the main takeaways for me – was that brands need desperately need innovation in the sustainability space to allow them to keep making the positive changes that they want to for the planet.

And it is this last line that is going to be a recurring theme with my work this year – making the positive changes that they want to for the planet.

 

 

Thank For You The Last 10 Years & Here’s to 2020

It’s been an incredible year from celebrating 10 years of Serendipity PR to publishing my first book The PR Knowledge Book (amazon.co.uk/PR-Knowledge-B).

Thank you for the love you have shown The PR Knowledge Book & Serendipity PR this year and I’m very excited by what’s coming in 2020!

 

 

2020 Will Be The Year Of The New Type Of PR Strategist

 

Traditional public relations (PR) has been evolving for the last ten years, but in 2020, I believe we are really going to see traditional PR experts forced to become all round PR strategist if they are going both survive and to be able to service the needs of their clients. Where we will focus not only on PR but social media, branding, marketing, copywriting, diversity in campaigns, sustainability and technology, where technology will be playing a bigger role than previously thought.

This need to become all round PR strategists will be pushed by the brands who recognize that they have to up their game, which in turn will be driven by consumers who will demand that brands do better and get it right. This isn’t something that marketing or digital professionals will be able to deliver on, but instead by communication experts who will have an overview and a real understanding of the brands they are working with and representing.

For instance, we have seen many of the luxury brands starting to drive diversity in 2019 by employing ‘diversity chiefs’ after many culturally insensitive campaigns. Chanel hired its first ‘Head of Diversity and Inclusion’, Fiona Pargeter, this year, as a way to reportedly “beef up the resources” devoted to creating diverse and inclusive environments. While, Prada launched its ‘Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council’ earlier this year in February. This was after, the brand came under scrutiny when some of its products (black monkey figurines with oversized red lips) displayed in a New York, US, store were thought to resemble blackface imagery.

Other luxury fashion houses, including Burberry, are also hiring for similar roles. Renée Tirado was named as Gucci’s first global head of diversity, equity and inclusion and followed its out-of-touch autumn/winter 2018 collection featuring a balaclava polo neck jumper with large red lips – a product accused of portraying blackface. The Italian fashion company apologized, stating it would turn the incident into “a powerful learning moment”.

These hires are not clever publicity moves, but a must have for companies worldwide who recognize that they need to embrace diversity, as there is no longer the excuse to get it wrong. Consumers are demanding better and for brands to be inclusive and sensitive.

Sustainability will be seen as a bigger core brand value and news item than any PR or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professional could have imagined. With climate change, plastic pollution and reducing waste continuing to dominate global headlines, companies will need to ensure that their CSR initiatives are not just used as marketing tools, as they will face a consumer and media backlash, but are instead integral to their core brand values, which is then sincerely filtered through to all their internal and external communications, operations and delivery.

Thirteen years ago, companies would start CSR projects to show their stakeholders how good they were, which was window dressing. Fast-forward to 2019, businesses need to prove how good they are!

This means creating a human connection between a brand and its audiences will be pivotal in 2020. Where the PR strategy will need to be driven by emotion and have the human element in order to be more meaningful and lead to a growing focus on expert, local and enthusiastic micro-influencers, instead of macro-influencers. Everything will be drilled down, as consumers suffer from constant information overload and expect to engage with businesses on their own terms. It’s so important to create campaigns that provoke emotions that are relevant and memorable, and therefore, PR experts will need to consider all aspects of a client’s social and digital footprint.

The best campaigns will focus on creating not just customers – but true fans who are passionate about the brand, who proactively search for information and become active advocates for the business.

Simultaneously, it will be important and a challenge consider how to reach consumers undergoing digital detoxes. How is your brand providing value to an audience overwhelmed by hypo connectivity? As interactive content and video are no longer enough; no one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf solutions. The challenge is real –creating campaigns that tap into human truths and acknowledge human potential will be key.

I am definitely looking forward to 2020…as Serendipity PR is more than ready.

 

 

 

 

 

Get Legally Speaking Podcast – First UK Legal Consumer Podcast Tackling Issues People Want To Know About

It doesn’t matter for how long you have been working in PR, when you gain media success there’s nothing quite like that feeling, and it’s always sweeter when the project you are working on is purposeful – making a difference.

So, it is with great fanfare I can say that Serendipity PR & Media is delighted to be working with legal professional and entrepreneur Hatti Suvari on her new legal podcast, Get Legally Speaking, which launched on 4 November to great success!

Get Legally Speaking is Hatti’s brilliant creation and yet a simple idea. It’s the first UK legal consumer podcast tackling the issues that people want to know about, asking the questions that the public want answers to and stripping down to the facts. Hatti will be speaking to the best UK legal minds on Get Legally Speaking and will cover all issues from divorce, to family law, employee rights, customer rights and yes! Brexit rights of EU citizens.

The first episode is focused on divorce, a big topic for many as we go into Christmas. In this episode Hatti speaks with leading family law barrister Maria Scotland from 5 St Andrews Hill Chambers, London who is joint head of the family team at her chambers, finding out – how to get the divorce process started; how does it work; do both husband and wife have to agree to a divorce; how much will a divorce cost; and how long will the process take.

Hatti is passionate about making UK law easy for people to understand and says, “I come across people daily, who are confused about the legal matters that are affecting them and don’t know where to start. With the Citizens Advice Bureau’s around the country over-stretched, and with their outlets on the high-street reduced, I wanted to do something and Get Legally Speaking is the answer.”

Hatti will be covering a specific topic on each Get Legally Speaking podcast, chatting with the best legal experts, asking the questions that people need answers to in an easy way and speak. Get Legally Speaking is on Buzzsprout and can also be found on iTunes and Spotify.

Apart from running the media campaign for Get Legally Speaking, Serendipity PR & Media has helped shape the branding, the website and creative, including writing all the copy, ensuring brand alignment and the over-seeing of social media.

Asian Giants

 

What a thrill to be included in this year’s Asian Giants, a publication that recognises British Asian women of influence who are making a difference; which is produced by Asian Voice newspaper/Asian Business Publications.

It’s empowering to be alongside these talented women. In my story I mention my mum, who ran her own business in the late 70’s. At that time when my mum opened her wool shop in North London, people came in to tell her that they would not buy from her because she was not white and they did not like Indians. Needless to say my mum won them over, becoming their trusted confidante where all her customers would confide in her. Where at Christmas time they would come to the shop for sherry and mince pies.

My mum taught me to be creative, trust my instincts and not to give up, because you can make change.

The PR Knowledge Book

For the last six months I have been beavering away and as a result, I know have some exciting news…I have just published my first book called, The PR Knowledge Book, published by BEP Publishing. My book arrived yesterday 13 August and it felt and still feels wonderful to hold.

I have written the book for a global audience, using my international client case stories and insights. The PR Knowledge Book is for anyone, irrespective of where they are in the world—student starting out in this industry, self-employed, a home business, small business, start-up, charity, or any other type of organization wanting to embark on their PR journey or someone just plain curious about what it all entails.

The book covers everything within the world of PR – from how to create a brand, how to use social media, how to be newsworthy, to how to contact the media, how to have a global mind-set, the power of networking, and more. Written in an easy style, packed with powerful tips and proven tools. In 12 chapters you will discover how to get your brand out there so you can attract clients and new business.

I have made sure to tackles hot topics from diversity in the newsroom to fake news. There’s also a chapter dedicated to how small businesses can go global and how serendipity can make your brand grow.

I am very proud that The PR Knowledge has already received advance praise from industry leaders world-wide and includes – Jérôme Chouchan, Godiva Chocolatier, President, Japan, South Korea, Asia and Australia; Julia Hobsbawm OBE, Editor-at-Large, THRIVE Global and author, Fully Connected: Social Health in an Age of Overload; Professor Jonathan A.J. Wilson PhD, Partner at Dragonfly Black, LinkedIn Top Voices Award Winner; Tami Belt, Author and Founder, Blue Cube Marketing Solutions, Las Vegas; Erik Korsvik Ostergaard, Leadership Advisor, published author and guest lecturer at The Copenhagen Business School; Jill Totenberg, CEO, The Totenberg Group, New York; Dr. Harbeen Arora, Founder, BIOAYURVEDA, ALL Ladies League and Women Economic Forum, India; Tom Seabrook, Commissioning Book Editor, Jawbone Press; Malcolm Stern, Co-founder and Director of Alternatives London; Raja Majid, Las Vegas Entrepreneur; Rusen Kumar, editor-chief, India CSR Network; and Asian Voice Newspaper.

Below are just some of the endorsements:

Julia Hobsbawm OBE, Editor-at-Large, THRIVE Global and author, Fully Connected: Social Health in an Age of Overload says, “Knowledge is power and this book is powerful knowledge. Clear, direct and creative: it explains the digital landscape of PR for practitioners and clients alike.”

Professor Jonathan A.J. Wilson PhD, Partner at Dragonfly Black, LinkedIn Top Voices Award Winner says, “Sangeeta is a seasoned PR professional and her wisdom is captured within this book. It’s just what the doctor ordered!”

Dr. Harbeen Arora, Founder, BIOAYURVEDA, ALL Ladies League and Women Economic Forum, India says, “I greatly welcome this book that helps us reimagine PR as ‘People Relations’, a vital tool for empowering brand and business creation in a connected world.”

Tami Belt, Author and Founder, Blue Cube Marketing Solutions, Las Vegas says, “Sangeeta Waldron is a trusted colleague and inspiration. The PR Knowledge Book shares practical and proven strategies from the front lines of PR. She outlines the building blocks of creating a Brand and PR plan that delivers results by building relationships. Business is personal. It’s about relationships. That’s the bottom line.”

Asian Voice Newspaper, UK and Europe’s leading Asian newspaper says, “If PR has always baffled you, then this is the book to read. Written in an easy style with lots of examples. It will become your best-friend.”

With US employment for public relations specialists expected to reach 282,600 in 2026, up 9 percent from 2016, according to projections from the Labor Department, it makes The PR Knowledge Book a timely read.

I hope if you do choose to buy a copy of The PR Knowledge Book, that you enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it. The book can be bought from various online platforms including Amazon or the publisher’s website.

One last word…I have always wanted to write a book, since I was 10 years old, 40 odd years later, it shows that dreams can come true!

 

 

Finally – PR & Media Together Are Making The Right Headlines About Climate Crisis

There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t see a climate, environmental or sustainable story making the headlines. I think it is safe to say that these topics are now high on the daily news agenda and it is about time. I have been actively involved working on raising the profile of the issues surrounding climate change, the impact of humans on the plant and sustainability for the last two decades…and during this time it has been a hard PR slog. As till now there has been a lack of apathy with the UK media.

I recall an environmental journalist working on one of the national broadsheets in the 90’s explaining to me his challenge of convincing his news editor to run a climate change story, that I was working on at the time. He said that unless it was directly affecting people here in the UK, it wasn’t a strong story for his editor – a story about climate change in Africa wasn’t going to interest his paper. Well fast-forward to 2019, where we are all experiencing the global butterfly effects of climate change or should I say what has since been upgraded to ‘climate crisis’ and what is happening in Africa, India, Singapore or any other part of the world is now our news.

Recently, The Guardian announced that it was updating its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crisis facing the world. Where instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned. “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

This news narrative is also being driven by the private sector, as corporations have started to wake up to the long-term implications for their businesses of global warming. Companies, such as Coca-Cola, Google, Apple and Tesla are vocal about climate change and their pursuit of sustainability; and this is also changing PR.

However, some argue that this kind of media reporting creates public fear and that a ‘war on the climate crisis’ is not a positive or a balanced media response.

I say that we have wasted the last twenty years trying to put this issue on the news agenda in order to raise public awareness about the state of the climate, an issue that affects us all. We are now at a tipping point and according to the eminent, Sir David Attenborough we only have ten years to make the planetary changes that we need to survive.

At last the PR and media industry are together making the right headlines about climate crisis. It’s a start. We need consistency across all media channels. The clock is ticking.

 

Mayor of London At The Asian Voice Charity Awards

Last month Asian Voice newspaper held its annual Charity Awards at the Hilton, Park Lane, which is in its fourth year. The media title co-hosts these Awards with Charity Clarity, where together they actively support organisations seeking to solve social issues within Britain and globally.

The Awards showcase excellence; shining a spotlight on charities struggling to get the profile and/or funding that they need to move forward.

This year the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan was the chief guest and spoke about London’s great diversity, which is the Capital’s strength. The theme of this year’s awards was focused on combating knife crime, an issue that has dominated the Mayor’s agenda, who awarded the Editor’s Choice Award to the Damilola Taylor Trust, who provides inner-city youths in Britain with opportunities to play and learn, free from fear and violence.

The Mayor touched upon the serious issue of increasing knife crimes in London and how charities play a big role in tackling these violent crimes. He said, “While I am convinced London is the best city in the world, I am also not blind to the reality of the problems of this city and charities have an important role to play in filling in the gaps in the social safety net in recent years. Violent crime is on the rise across the country, including in London. As Mayor, I am determined to lead from the front when it comes to tackling this issue.”

The Charity of the Year award went to Watford-based Paul Strickland Scanner Centre, an independent medical charity working to improve the lives of people affected by cancer and other severe medical conditions. The Social Impact Award was presented to Child Rescue Nepal, which works on the ground to free children from slavery and captivity. While the Most Enterprising Award went to Medical Aid Films; it brings together health experts with filmmakers. Leah Chowdhry was named the Most Inspiring Young Person for becoming the first British Asian woman to swim the English Channel to raise funds to combat child trafficking in India.

The Sarvam Trust, which facilitates and supports the work of the Sri Aurobindo Society to help the under-privileged in rural areas of India, was the winner of the Audience Choice Award.

The Outstanding PR Award went to the Oscar Foundation, who encourage leadership, teamwork and education in schools to help prevent young people from dropping out.

Former journalist Rupert Morris moderated a discussion with an eminent panel who were – philanthropist Lord Rumi Verjee CBE; BAFTA winner Dr Carrie Grant; founder of The Media Trust Caroline Diehl MBE; and Andy Cook, CEO of the Centre for Social Justice. Together they shared their motivations for giving and civic engagement; emphasizing the importance of charity.

I was pleased to have been able to support this occasion by helping to put the above panel together and invite some of the high-profile guests who attended, who also presented the awards. It was an inspiring event and leave you this last thought from Lord Verjee who said on the night, “I am an immigrant in this country. We strive to be successful, and it is natural to give back to the society. In my life what I have realised is the more you give, the more you get back.”

 

Festival Live 10-11 May, Brighton, UK

I am looking forward to being at Festival Live this year on 10 and 11 May in Brighton, and participating on this panel, entitled – ‘Brands & Music Debate – with the world of live events continuously growing in popularity for fans, headliners & brands, what opportunities lie on the horizon? This session is at 12pm to 1pm on the 10th. 

Festival Live is a leading international B2B summit dedicated to the latest festival technologies and live event services. It attracts industry leaders and experts from around the world to reveal the latest technologies, innovations, case studies and updates from the best music festivals and live events on the planet.

The two-day event brings together the industry partners within the Music Festival and Live Events industry, where attendees and sectors include…Festival Organisers; Major and Indie Record Labels; Tour Managers; Artist Managers; Live Acts; Staging and more.

The entire event is sponsored by Discogs, which is the third largest online music website after YouTube and Spotify and the biggest seller of vinyl in the world.

If you are at Festival Live come and say hello! Here’s a  link to the event: https://www.fest.live/

It’s No Longer Possible For Brands Not To Be Diverse In Their Advertising Campaigns

I was recently invited by a high-end luxury online shopping brand for women to give feedback on its new online advertising campaign. First-off, I had not even noticed it’s new campaign and I suppose that was in itself telling, because it had not been memorable for me. However, when I did carefully consider it, I realised why it had not hit home…and that’s because it was not relatable and it didn’t connect with me. The advert looked out of touch and dated in the context of today’s conversations and I gave this feedback to the ‘enquiring luxury online shopping brand.’ But I also wondered how they could get it so wrong?!

Research shows that female consumers are calling time on airbrushing and have ‘perfection fatigue’, which has significant implications for brands. Therefore, it is no longer possible for brands not to be diverse in their advertising campaigns, and when I say ‘diverse’ I mean diversity in the age of models, race and reflective in body-types. While thin and prepubescent bodies are still the preferred choice for the runway and print media world, social media is giving a platform for celebrating more diverse body shapes. The #bodypositivity movement is empowering women to push against narrow and unattainable beauty standards and instead celebrate their differences and their imperfections.

Again, traditional magazines and other forms of advertising have always heavily featured white models largely from western European backgrounds. This lack of diversity has meant poor representation of other ethnicities. Yet, the explosion of social media has been incredibly positive for making beauty more accessible and inclusive.

Importantly, social media is no longer the natural habitat for millennials, as older women are using the medium to smash one of the most ingrained prejudices in fashion and beauty –  age. With styling, skincare and beauty tutorials aimed at older women, they’ve celebrated and empowered this demographic. Furthermore, they’ve also vanquished the myth that fashion and beauty is limited to youth.

As a result, brands casting only young, thin, white, flawless models no longer feel relevant in the modern age. But crucially advertising campaigns are also very much about the story that a brand is trying to relay to its audience and is connected to the brand values of the company, so any kind ‘tokenism’ will immediately be apparent. It’s important for brands to not stop at advertising, but instead embrace realness and transparency in their values.

It is also important for those of us working in media and communications to keep pulling up those brands that are falling short. The needle is shifting. Diversity and inclusion should not stand as buzzwords; but treated as a reflection point where brand managers and content creators strive for approaches that avoid reductive stereotypes and unintentional continuation of classism, racism and sexism.