News & Updates

Happy Birthday Agent Public Relations...!

Posted on Monday, November 24, 2014

12 months ago, we set out to build and run Agent Public Relations and so it’s time to reflect on what the year has meant to us.

Conversely, although the days fly by as we deliver various PR services for our clients, the point where actually we started the company seems a long time ago.

And that initial launch required an intense amount of work, as all business launches do.  We worked weekends, built contacts lists, made thousands of phone calls to announce ourselves to the wider world and renewed contact with journalists from every corner and business sector.

We have been on a stratospheric learning curve to understand the intricacies of dealing with HMRC and the best way to maximise our options as a limited company.

And we have continued looking at and learning about the best ways of working with a rapidly transforming media - one of the key reasons we wanted to run a modern, forward facing public relations consultancy for south Yorkshire and Sheffield.

The work levels haven’t diminished, although working weekends is sporadic, rather than perpetual… And the transformation from fledgling agency to one which manages upwards of eight renowned clients continues to be incredibly rewarding.

And none of it would be possible without clients who are a joy to work with and journalists who continue to break new ground and always understand a good news story.

So, one year in and we are excited about Agent Public Relations’ next 12 months, three years, ten years….

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Making you feel good by giving

Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2014
It never fails to amaze me the generosity of people.

Even in the hardest of times, there is always someone that can find a spare few quid to help out a good cause.

Giving, and collecting, is a lot easier these days. Rather than chasing people with a dog-eared sponsorship form, the arrival of sites like JustGiving have made handing over your donation much easier.

Last week, within seconds of hearing about the Manchester Evening News collection after the devastating fire at the Manchester Dogs Home I had given money over.

More than 160,000 other people from more than 40 countries had donated nearly £1.4m within four days of the blaze. At the height of the giving frenzy on Friday morning, the website JustGiving.com was handling four donations every second.

Other huge fundraising initiatives recently have included the £5m raised through cancer sufferer Stephen Sutton, which is being handed out to numerous nationwide good causes today by the Teenage Cancer Trust, and we've seen the ice bucket challenge sweep the social media channels - in the US it has raised $100m for the ALS Association this summer and considerable sums for other charities across the globe. Here's my effort....

A recent article in The Independent gave some interesting stats. It said on average, 30 new charities are set up every day in England and Wales with just over 164,000 charities in this country currently. Almost half of them raise less than £10,000 a year. Three-quarters have an annual income of below £100,000. Only one per cent handle more than £5m annually.

And UK giving continues to increase, by £1.1bn in 2012-13. The average amount donated is up by £2 to £29 a month, almost back to pre-recession levels. Medical research overtook the 31,000 religious charities as our favourite cause. Then hospitals and hospices, children and young people. Aid agencies got twice as much from the public as animal charities. Interestingly, more than half the giving is in cash, with 31 per cent by direct debit.

Women give more than men and, intriguingly, the poor are more generous than the rich.

Of course you don't have to give money, you can give time. One million people are unpaid charity trustees. More than three million are registered volunteers. In 2012, volunteers gave £24bn worth of time – the equivalent of 1.5 per cent of GDP.

So what dictates who you support or devote your time to? Donors choose personal connections that relate to their own lives and experiences. Only 10 per cent of us give to charities for people with disabilities and only six per cent to old people. Animal charities get twice as many donations as those for the homeless.

Whatever the cause - above all it makes you feel good when you donate.

What's your choice going to be next time you decide to give to charity?
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Journalism, public relations and democracy

Posted on Wednesday, August 20, 2014
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the UK about the integrity of journalism following the Leveson report and the phone hacking scandal which precipitated the enquiry.

And there is no doubt that those responsible for such appalling practices, purportedly carried out in the name of journalism, should be brought to account for their actions and thankfully – that judicial process has taken place.

Yet there is a fine balance between weeding out those tyrannical elements from the great and valuable trade of journalism and throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Journalism is fundamental to the preservation of democracy anywhere in the world – not just here in the UK. It’s a big claim, but one that is easy to defend. If we allow journalism to become suppressed by unwieldy levels of legislation and restriction, we will have no mechanism left with which to question those in power.

And questioning those in power, whether they have been appointed by their people or have imposed some kind of regime upon a nation, is how we monitor and understand the horrors that unfold almost on a daily basis across the globe.

The practice of public relations, or PR to those who prefer acronyms, is now a fundamental element of that journalistic mix. Granted – few PR practitioners are busy documenting the troubles in the Middle East from the front line, but we still contribute news material to the media. And that material should still abide by those established journalistic measures, of being a fair and accurate report of whatever the topic is.

So I will stick my neck out a bit here. Leave the journalists alone. There are plenty of ethical guidelines for the practice, which have long been managed by the Press Complaints Commission and which are fully workable. The only action that is needed - is for those responsible for infringement of those guidelines to be appropriately punished by a court of law.

However, PR as a trade has no such governing guidelines. Organisations such as the CIPR will lay claim to some form of guidance, but it is not formalised or accredited with any authority. The real crippler here is the volume of ‘PR’ degrees, which do not cover off the principles of insightful and unbiased journalistic practice sufficiently to produce high calibre practitioners.

Now this is not to suggest that public relations companies are creating problems of the kind that kick-started the Leveson enquiry, but as a post-graduate of journalism and a well established PR practitioner, my passion is the news. Reading, interpreting and contributing to that mechanism which allows the world to see what is happening. If I hadn’t learnt how that news-gathering process works – from the inside out, I wouldn’t feel confident in handling the issues I’m called to deal with now.

And my call to action in this blog is this.
 
Today, the media are reporting the death of one of their own. American journalist James Foley died to bring people across the world a true picture of the horrors of the IS uprising in Syria.

He was doing what was right and journalists like James and the UK’s own Rupert Hamer, who died in Afghanistan, deserve freedom to uncover those stories so that we do not continue through our days without understanding.

Those same freedoms must apply to our political correspondents in the corridors of Westminster. They are there to uncover the scandals and crookedness behind the system and to help us to demand fairer governance.

If legislation is to be brought to bear on this great trade – then let’s at least start with entry level requirements for PR practitioners, which must encompass some measurable, formal training in journalism.

Because if that seed is sown correctly – then those graduating and stepping into this trade will have no defence if they choose to deviate from those teachings.
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Movie Magic - online video

Posted on Thursday, July 10, 2014
This week has been about the movies – or more appropriately, it’s been about digital video and its place within corporate communications and public relations.

It started with a chance catch up with someone we’ve worked with before, a Sheffield film maker and photographer, Shaun Bloodworth, who created the following film about one of the last companies which still hand-craft scissors instead of having them block-punched out of plate steel in China and shipped in.


And Shaun’s treatment of this subject makes his film speak volumes about the skill and expertise of Sheffield’s craftsmen – without a single piece of dialogue. As online films go – this one’s pretty successful and has been seen by many.

Which is why I thought about this blog. We’ve been advising clients for many years now on the benefits and business potential of well made corporate video, and we’ve successfully produced and delivered films across any number of business sectors through our contacts in this industry.

And although the market for such material ‘flat-lined’ during the recessionary years, it is surging forth once more and for those savvy enough to use it – it can act almost as a currency.

The spread of digital information and news is big business. There are so many platforms to tap into that virtually any film will be seen, shared and liked regardless of its qualities.

However – if you just get it right, a well produced film about any company, any project, any service or simply about interesting people and places, can take on a life of its own and reach an unlimited number of people from anywhere in the world.

And the adoption of ‘mixed media’ within a website (film, audio, images etc) is something that Google and its contemporaries are really into – so a website will undoubtedly benefit from the inclusion of film by becoming that bit easier to find via the search engines.

Of course – a film doesn’t have to be as artfully crafted as Shaun’s endeavours to succeed, but why shouldn’t it? Why settle for the same old corporate footage peddled by many in this business, when you could have something special?

There’s a film maker out there for every occasion and budget, and we work with lots of the genuinely capable ones. So if your business needs bringing to life via some movie magic – Agent Public Relations can help.
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Bags of opportunity?

Posted on Wednesday, June 04, 2014
You know you've got one. A bag full of other plastic bags that you keep at home – perhaps under the sink? Under the stairs? In the utility room?

A super stash of crumpled multi-coloured carrier bags labelled up with the supermarket brands left over from a year's worth of trips to the shops - waiting to be used and reused.

Sometimes they might feature as bin liners when you're desperate, be pushed into a handbag for a trip to the car boot sale or be used as a hand protector as you pick up a vermin-related present on the doorstep from your friendly feline (yes, it was a mouse this week!)

Every time I go to the supermarket I try to recycle some bags for my shop – sometimes I haven't taken enough, sometimes I've overused them and they are on their last legs. Mine get used a lot more than the average 20 minute lifespan of a carrier bag! Each time I seem to amass more. I have even seen satellite versions of the 'bag full of bags' spawning from the main bag.

I have noticed that people have already started to change their behaviour and be more environmentally friendly. They have embraced the fact that a trip to the supermarket now includes a handful of old carrier bags shoved into the front of their trolley, or the eco-friendly, patterned, hessian, bag for life type carefully stacked next to the  designer handbag. The bag for life was a major game changer. Some people have a stash of bags for life!

So the Government has finally relented and decided to force reluctant supermarkets and larger stores to impose 5p charge for a plastic bag by next October.

The toll, announced by the Queen today,  is expected to cut the use of plastic bags by at least three-quarters – at the moment more than eight million disposable bags are used in England each year. That's 130 per person. And environmental campaigners say that some bags can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

So with my stash, and if I'm savvy on reusing them, I reckon I have enough bags to last me a good few years, without paying.

And if I do forget my bags and have to pay – well, that's OK. The announcement says the charge is expected to raise millions of pounds a year for charities and good causes likely to be nominated by stores. I might bring it up with a couple of my charity contacts to get in there early.
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