Are you a fresh grad looking for a PR gig? An agency is the place to be

Can we take a moment to acknowledge just how pressuring it is for a prospective tertiary student to decide on a major that might define their professional career forever? As a tourism student-turned PR practitioner, the transition into the world of public relations comes with a steep learning curve. But it pays off massively if you have an eye for current affairs and an excellent command of one or more languages.

 After a couple of internships later, I realised a whole world lay beyond the familiarity of working for a brand. There was a mystery to these elusive agencies which hardly basked in the spotlight themselves, yet worked laboriously to ensure that their clients shone the brightest.

As a humorous nod to the hit comic series which our agency is affectionately named after, we think that the dynamic between agencies and in-house brands mirrors that of the one shared between mutants and humans in the X-Men universe. Being in an agency is like being a part of the X-Men, there are always more experienced practitioners that you can learn from and when the going gets tough, it truly helps to know that your team understands exactly what you’re going through.

With the exception of crisis prone industries, in-house PR and comms teams tend to be very lean. A small, tight-knit team comprising of a few experienced individuals are usually  responsible for overseeing and managing entire marketing campaigns. Does this sound appealing to you? While you will enjoy the autonomy of being able to call the shots, you might feel weighed down by the sheer size of the responsibilities which lie solely on your shoulders. 

So, how do you ascertain which working environment would be most conducive to your professional and personal growth? If you’re a fresh graduate exploring the possibility of a career in PR and communications, here are some reasons why we think agencies are the best place to work in – especially if you’re still on the fence.

Developing expertise across different verticals

As agencies evolve to stay ahead of the curve, many now offer a wider range of complementary services. From PR and content marketing to digital and social media management, agencies are usually filled with folks who bring diverse skill sets to the table. Depending on the client’s business objectives, people from different teams come together to get the job done. 

For example, Mutant’s portfolio of clients spans across the consumer, lifestyle, technology and corporate verticals. Having the chance to explore a myriad of sectors and industries is ideal for those who are undecided about the industry they eventually want to carve out a career in. Focus first on mastering the fundamentals of the trade, before jumping into a specific field. 

Learning from a team of experienced practitioners

With a shrinking media pool and mercurial audience habits, it takes more than just a seasoned practitioner to be a good mentor. From the undeniable force that is influencer marketing to the rising adoption of messaging apps, good mentorship comes from the ability to guide, while also adapting quickly to the changing times.

In an agency environment, the matrix-style organisational structure which requires you to sit across multiple practices will expose you to a plethora of unique perspectives and ideas. The great thing about working in an agency is that no two days will be the same, due to the nature of the client work involved. 

Character development

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that extensive relationship-building, be it with the media, clients or other stakeholders is a part and parcel of agency life. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a social butterfly to flourish in a client-facing role – as long as you have the ability to empathise with people and forge sincere, genuine relationships, you will succeed. 

While having to juggle the expectations of multiple parties might seem a tad challenging at the start, you will find yourself easing into it as you spend more time in your role. Sometimes, you will feel like the cards are stacked against you. However, the pain is short-lived, and you will find yourself emerging relatively unscathed, having grown more confident and eloquent. 

We could always spend time wondering if an agency function or in-house PR and comms role would suit us better, but the truth is we’ll never know for sure without experiencing a job firsthand. So if you’re still looking for something to nudge you into taking that leap of faith – take a deep breath, get your résumé in order, and apply away!

Well, what are you waiting for? If you’re on the hunt for a PR gig, you ought to write in to us at : [email protected]

Bigger isn’t always better: Why (Agency) Size Matters

Bigger isn’t always better… at least when it comes to agency size.

In a mature market like Singapore, the PR and comms landscape is constantly evolving. In recent years, we’ve seen more brands turn to boutique agencies instead of opting for the default route of playing with the big boys. 

To industry outsiders, it may seem as though a large agency would be in a better position to support their clients based on size and access to resources. However, the reverse is often true – it’s a classic David and Goliath story. While big names may be perceived to have more manpower and resources, they can often lack the dynamism and agility needed to effectively execute a solid communications plan. 

Mid-sized and boutique agencies, on the other hand, have a number of traits that can give them a competitive edge over their larger counterparts. Their small size allows them to be nimble, adaptive and extra-attentive to the needs of their clients.

So before you reach out to the same ol’ ‘big name’ agency, here’s why going small could suit your needs better: 

More attention

The most common feedback we receive from clients who have switched over from a bigger agency is that their business wasn’t getting enough attention. While this can depend on their definition of “enough”, larger agencies often have hundreds of clients, meaning teams are stretched and when newer business comes on board, that client can get passed along to the ‘B-team’. In a small agency however, there is no B-team! The same group of people you meet at the pitch meeting will be the ones dedicated to handling your project, ensuring that it gets enough love regardless of how far you are in the relationship.

Personalised solutions

We’re operating in an advanced media landscape where to truly be heard, you need to go above and beyond the expectations of your clients. Small agencies often involve even the most senior, experienced team members in the day-to-day operations. One of the first things we do when we get a client brief is to have a brainstorm with the bosses and develop a personalised approach that will actually help to drive your business goals – be it awareness, engagement or even direct leads.

Faster action

The communications industry moves fast, and brands that want to make a splash by riding on key trends need a team that can take prompt action. This is often easier in a smaller agency with a flat management structure and less red tape, leading to quicker turnaround times and approvals, saving countless billable hours.  

Agility & dynamism

Walking hand-in-hand with efficiency is agility, which is in abundance at a smaller agency. At Mutant, for example, rather than having strict teams for lifestyle, corporate or tech clients, we are able to pull together the best team of individuals for that particular client’s needs – and we can do this, because all our Mutants are flexible, adaptable and can handle multiple accounts across all industries.  

Lower agency fees

In general, smaller agencies can charge less because they don’t have the same massive overheads that network agencies do – but keep in mind smaller agencies still need to charge fairly for their time! Good boutiques are priced fairly for a senior team – although this will always end up cheaper than larger agencies – and clients need to evaluate the fees provided against the senior counsel they’re getting.  

Strong culture

A positive workspace directly contributes to better results for clients. As clichéd as it sounds, there’s no denying smaller agencies often foster a better working culture. That doesn’t just mean after-work drinks or fancy perks – we’re talking about a team with a collaborative attitude, mutual trust in each other’s skills and a shared passion to drive results. This is something that we Mutants personally believe in and always try to embody, and it’s the driving force for our success. 

In summary, we get to know your business on a personal level, drive stronger results and are great to work with! While a larger agency might still be the right fit for you, why not reach out and see how we could truly help your business?

If you were convinced by what we had to say about smaller agencies, why not work with one? You know where to find us: [email protected]

4 PR Takeaways from the Winter Olympics 2018

The frozen mountains of South Korea have seen much action over the last two weeks, as Olympians brave the freezing temperatures and unforgiving landscapes to bring glory to their countries. As the 2018 Winter Olympics draws to a close, here’s a few PR lessons to consider:

Relatability is key

Brands should take a page out of teen virtuoso Chloe Kim’s book- even in the middle of competition, the Olympic gold medalist shamelessly tweeted about her dog, being “hangry” and her eyeliner. Her sincere and heartfelt posts won over netizens, making her one of the most popular athletes in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

While we don’t suggest that your brand blog about everything under the sun, it is necessary to speak the language of consumers. Chloe Kim became everyone’s best friend almost overnight because she came across as a regular teenage girl to her peers despite being an accomplished athlete. Similarly, your brand should engage with your target audience in a way that feels authentic, relatable and honest. Speak the language of your consumers, and encourage two-way dialogue wherever possible.

Switch things up

Historically, figure skating costumes have been always been gendered. This year, Hungary’s Ivett Toth, France’s Maé-Bérénice Méité and Latvia’s Diana Nikitina were amongst the few women skaters who challenged status quo by ditching the usual skirts and dresses in favour of embellished bodysuits. Ivett Toth’s leather-and-AC/DC routine made her an instant internet sensation.

Similarly, the PR industry has undergone massive changes in the past century. Digital disruption and the emergence of a new generation that perpetually lives online presents a new set of challenges to brands. To keep things fresh and interesting, your business must come up with unexplored ways of reaching out to potential consumers. Amp up your communication game by daring to go where your competitors have not ventured before — and, your customers are bound to sit up and take notice of you.

When the spotlight is on you, shine

For two weeks, South Korea had the world’s undivided attention as top political leaders, elite athletes, tourists and journalists congregated in PyeongChang to experience the 2018 Winter Olympics. While South Korea has consistently engaged in a display of “soft power”, courting the international community with entertainment and technology,  the last few years have been focused on their diplomatic squabbles with neighbour North Korea. The success of the Winter Olympics will not only bring long-term economic prosperity to South Korea, but will also give the country a chance to shift its narrative from disgruntled neighbour and producer of K-Pop to an influential player in the international community.

If your business is thrust into the limelight, even unexpectedly- do not shy away from the opportunity to take control of your narrative and create goodwill. Embrace the attention and use it as a springboard to propel your brand to the forefront of your consumers minds’.

Don’t talk unless you have your facts in place

Recovering from a massive “foot-in-the-mouth” moment is much harder in the age of technology and social media and is likely to set you back by a few millions in damage control. American Broadcasting Network NBC is still reeling from their coverage of the Winter Olympics, where a supposed “expert” on Asia made insensitive remarks about the Japanese occupation of Korea. After angry netizens swooped in, NBC was forced to fire the commentator, apologised to the organising committee and read their apology on-air.

The internet has the memory of an elephant and little mistakes can be blown out of proportion. A single gaffe could cost you heavily, which is why it is wiser to subject public statements to several rounds of editing before they are sent out. An embarrassing typo or a glaring factual error could end up as internet fodder, propelling your brand to infamy if you aren’t careful enough.

Want to speak more about your PR campaign or media training? Drop a note at [email protected]

How to eliminate jargon when addressing the media

Overheard while walking the halls of large technology company – “The new feature is built around ephemerality, and we are in-roading programmatic integration”

If that sentence made you slightly queasy, you are not alone. Technology rushes forward and language can sometimes barely keep up. To compensate, many of us resort to linguistic shorthand – acronyms, technical jargon, or even brand new invented words.

That’s all well and good when discussing internally – but eventually we need to shout about our products from the hills. And screaming – “IT’S AN INTEGRATED HOLISTIC PLATFORM THAT ENABLES THE AUTOMATION AND DIGITISATION OF INFORMATION THROUGH SELF-LEARNING ALGORITHMS!” – is not an inspiring war cry.

So here are a few tips when we need to talk about new things.

Articulate the value you’re giving to customers

My favourite quality in a spokesperson is passion and pure excitement about innovation. They are usually experts in their fields, and sometimes the brains behind breakthroughs. But sometimes, they get too excited about the process, they forget to talk about the results. In building a narrative, start with the customer. What problems are they facing or why would they like your product? Instead of talking about nuts and bolts of self-learning algorithms, talk about what that could mean in terms of cost-savings and efficiencies.

Use Analogies, but avoid cliches

One of the most elegant ways that Open Source coding was explained to me through this analogy.

“Imagine buying Car A – you can drive it, but no one is allowed to look under the hood. If anything goes wrong, you’d only be able to take it back to the manufacturer’s garage. The manufacturer’s mechanics would be the only people to work on the engine. That’s Closed Source coding. Now imagine buying Car B – you can drive it, and anyone can look under the hood this time. Any licensed mechanic would also be able to look at the engine – and in fact compare your engine to other newer engines and make modifications. That’s Open Source coding.”

While one could nit-pick the technicality of the analogy, this is still a good primer for a non-technical person to understand something new. With the consumerisation of technology and more IT decisions being made by non-IT professionals, the ability to convert technical concepts to plain speak is becoming more essential.

Graphics are worth a thousand words

While analogies are great, sometimes words hit a barrier when it comes to explaining things – especially for very abstract concepts. You could always try multiple analogies, or pouring more words in, but sometimes a much more effective solution is the deployment of visuals to clarify things.

I highly recommend this YouTube channel – Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. It’s a great example of how effective visuals can help explain difficult concepts, like Universal Incomes or the science behind GMO foods. And of course, statics graphics can work just as well.

Ultimately, the trick is to start with your customers. What do they know and understand? What touchpoint would they relate to? Once you meet them on their side of the bridge with something they understand, that’s when you can guide them along your narrative journey.

Need help with your PR strategy? Drop us a message at [email protected]

Gen Z: Marketing to digital natives

While everyone is focused on getting the attention of millennials, the next generation (Z) is already having an impact on the media and PR industry. But who is this Generation Z and what sets them apart? Their behaviour online and the way they consume content will be a crucial indicator for what direction the PR and media world is moving towards. Here is how they are already changing the game.

Internet & social media generation

Generation Z could easily be renamed the internet & social media generation, as they not only grow up with the internet as their primary form of communication, but they are also the first generation to use social media and the internet from a very early age onwards. In 2015, 77% of 12–17- year-olds owned a mobile phone, which is reflected in the estimated 150,000 educational apps, 10% of Apple’s App Store, aimed at them. Generation Z isn’t just media-savvy, but ‘being online’ is a given for the generation of ‘digital natives’. This means that PR folks and marketers don’t just need to stay up-to-date with the latest digital and social media trends, they need to be ahead of the curve.

No more Facebook?

Talking to people who were born at the turn of the century, you will be surprised that, although they have a Facebook account, their chosen social media channels are in fact Instagram and Snapchat. While the Facebook feed still works to amplify articles and news from websites and brands, the content form must adapt to new social media platforms. To be sure, brands and media platforms are already experimenting with Snapchat and Instagram. Airbnb, for example, used an inspirational travel video series for their Instagram Stories to create awareness and buzz for the launch of Experiences on Airbnb.

 

However, given that both platforms display content only for a limited amount of time, PR and media must adapt to craft and develop impactful content to capture the attention of these younglings.

Skipping Ads

Inundated with content, this generation has done particularly well to filter out ads and sponsored content. Simply put, they won’t react to an ad, unless it benefits them and adds value to their lives. Marketers and PR folks need to be smarter with Generation Z, but shouldn’t try to outsmart them. Advertising and sponsored posts need to camouflage themselves into something that this generation wants to see.

Struggling traditional media

This lot has little regard for traditional media and are more likely to be consuming content on social media, blogs and YouTube. Showcasing your content natively on social media and working with trusted influencers can help to make inroads with Gen Z.

Long term investment

Despite skipping ads and filtering content that doesn’t interest them, Generation Z tends to be more loyal than the generation that came before them. As Gen Z consumers stay loyal to the brands they shop at and are more likely to stick with them throughout their lives, it’s still worth making the investment as a brand.

Although the content they consume tends to be very short-lived, the investment of brands and PR agencies will be long-term. This is good news for everyone, as customer acquisition is becoming more important and might have longevity – despite constantly changing consumer behaviours.

 

Like what you’ve read? Drop a note at [email protected] to talk about how to make your brand ready for the next generation. 

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7 things to consider when choosing the right PR agency

Are you thinking about hiring a PR agency?

With so many agencies to choose from, it can definitely be an overwhelming process to find the perfect partner to help communicate the right brand message to the right audience.

Whether you have gone through the selection process in the past or you’re looking for the first time, here are the 7 crucial factors to consider when screening potential agencies:

1. Plan and prepare

First and foremost, you’ll need to decide what your business goals and objectives are. Do you want to achieve brand awareness, or make your new product launch the talk of the town? Or perhaps you want to establish yourself as an important thought leader in your field? Having a clearly defined goal helps to narrow your search down to find agencies with the right capabilities and expertises.

2. Size does matter

Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Large firms may have greater manpower and resources, but smaller agencies make up for it with a nimble and flexible team that’s quick to catch changing trends. By default, smaller agencies have a flatter hierarchy with less bureaucracy and red tape. This can translate into saved time and resources, and greater visibility into operations. What’s important is to identify an agency with the right size and fit for your brand – one that has the relevant experience and staff to meet your needs.

3. Avoid a bait-and-switch

When hearing pitches, pay attention to the team. Make sure what you see is what you get. Are you dealing with a large agency where smaller accounts are handed down to junior staff? Will the team pitching to you be working on your account? Some agencies send a pitching team made up of senior partners and the top creative honchos to woo you, but once business is secured, the account will be handed off to other members of the team. Clarify who will be developing and executing the campaign to avoid unpleasant surprises.

4. Making connections

When you hire an agency, you gain their valuable contacts and connections. Make sure the agency has trusted and positive relationships with the right people and media. Besides making it faster for you to see results, your business would also be able to leverage upon those relationships beyond PR purposes.

5. Area of expertise

It goes without saying that the agency you hire should understand your industry and the basics of your field. Having to constantly explain programmatic buying to the account manager can get frustrating, so pick an agency that has experience in your industry and region. They should be able to work their magic and simplify the technical jargon, making even the most unsexy topics sound fun.

6. Practice what they preach

PR is one of the fastest moving industries, and it’s important to ensure the agency you choose is dynamic and always one step ahead.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making a decision:

  1.   Are they experienced with social media?
  2.   Do they provide digital strategies in addition to traditional PR?
  3.   Are they able to provide media training?
  4.   Can they build great thought leaders?

If, for example, an agency says they specialise in executing social media strategies, check to see if they have an updated blog and social media pages. You can tell a lot about an agency through its online presence. Are they practicing what they preach?

7. Counsellor versus yes-man

While it’s important for an agency to execute campaigns well, they should also be providing strategic counsel and speak up when they feel your ideas won’t achieve much. Instead of a yes approach, an agency that challenges your ideas and offers alternative solutions works better than one agreeing to every single idea. Having an objective view and strong news judgement is one of the biggest benefits to hiring a PR agency. You want an agency that takes initiative and thinks outside of the box to find the best solution to help achieve your goals.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you choose the right PR agency with the appropriate capabilities, experience, and right fit for your company.

 

Keen to learn more about what Mutant can offer? Drop us a note at [email protected].

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4 things Casey Neistat can teach you about PR

This week CNN announced that it has acquired shortform video app, Beme – the product of a collaboration between ex-Tumblr(er) Matt Hackett and filmmaker Casey Neistat. Never heard of Beme? You’ll be forgiven. Despite a promising kickoff, the video messaging app (akin to Snapchat) never achieved widespread appeal and suffered a ropey adoption curve.

The acquisition (reported to be $25 million USD) represents a logical skip-jump for CNN, who have come along way from their broadcaster roots to become a 24-hour global multi-platform network, and a consistent adopter of new mediums. In an age where anyone with a smartphone can become a news correspondent, it was only a matter of time before a global network like CNN dipped its toes into shortform video.

What seems clear though, is that CNN is really buying Casey Neistat, the filmaker turned vlogger who regularly draws over 20-million views to each of his daily vlogs and, who arguably changed the entire vlog medium by bringing a filmmaker’s lense to a disposable, low-fi format.

Here are four key PR lessons you can learn from Casey Neistat:

1. Be open and real

Neistat leads a successful tech company, yet he talks to his audiences through channels and forms that they understand and can connect with. When Beme started having technical issues, rather than a smoke and mirrors approach to hide his company’s shortfalls, he was open and sincere about the mistakes. As a result, he was able to build greater trust and buy-in from the public and key stakeholders.

2. Trust a influencer’s integrity – it’s what makes them valuable

With nearly 6-million subscribers, Casey inevitably monetises his activities with brand partnerships. However this doesn’t mean Neistat becomes a starry-eyed spineless brand ambassador. Instead he’ll often work closely with brands such as Apple or Canon, only to criticise the products, albeit in a constructive and level-headed way.

Working in PR, we often bang our heads in frustration when a story hasn’t gone quite the way we planned, or didn’t even land at all. But it’s the influencer’s ability to speak honestly about products that separates the role of PR from owned media and is precisely what gives it true value. Brands who understand this will always work with influencers like Neistat, respecting their unswayable integrity, rather than treating them like glorified infomercials.

3. Storytelling is everything

 

casey-neistat-content-strategy

Neistat hammers this home with every video he creates, from ads with Nike, to vacation vlogs in Vietnam, to Beme itself. With a growing emphasis on native and content-based advertising, it seems that many marketers get distracted by the medium over the message. In essence though, nothing has actually changed. Storytelling is and always will be the most crucial element – irrespective of platform, medium or screen.

PR’s value-add is its ability to really understand the audience and convey a story to audiences with unparallelled authenticity and sincerity. Consumers and the media are now more savvy, discerning and BS-resistant than ever before, so make sure your story is compelling, interesting and not just a sales pitch.

4. Know when to zip it

Neistat’s usual topics cover technology, gadgets, filmmaking and storytelling. However, on a few occasions, Neistat has stepped off-piste into commenting on areas outside his usual content, such as the US election. He was met with quite a violent backlash from the YouTube community who didn’t appreciate him stepping off his impartial boosted-board.

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So what’s the lesson? Make sure you understand where your area of knowledge lies and stick to it. The media may often look for outsiders to comment on subjects outside of a spokesperson’s field, either to offer a fresh perspective or draw them out of their comfort zone. Succumb to the temptation to enter another arena – even slightly – and you risk alienating your brand, diluting your core messaging or, at worst, diving headfirst into a PR disaster.

As a hybrid of consumer, creative agency, tech evangelist and influencer, Casey Neistat has made more impact on the content marketing ecosystem than can fit concisely into this blog, and nothing says this more than CNN’s latest purchase. It’s certainly an exciting time to be in content marketing and PR.

If you need help spreading your brand message, get in touch with us at [email protected]

Image source YouTube