I have been interviewing PR practitioners from all over the world as part of my interview series called 20:20 Vision. The concept of these interviews is that I ask each practitioner 20 questions about themselves and they give us a brief glimpse into their working lives and what makes them tick. Most of the people I speak with will have a strong interest in digital, online or modern public relations strategy.
My first interview was with Arik C. Hanson and a few weeks ago I interviewed Crosby Noricks the founder of PR Couture and co-presenter of the entry-level fashion PR workshop Fashion PR Confidential and author of Ready to Launch. So this week I am delighted to be interviewing Michael White, who currently works as a digital account manager at Lansons but despite his youth Michael is a talented professional. Delivering innovative digital solutions as part of an integrated team, working with some of the most skilled practitioners in the industry. Michael has a first class honours degree in public relations from the University of Gloucestershire and is currently named by Cision as one of the UK’s top ten PR bloggers (thoughtsymposium.com). His knowledge of the digital market as a disrupter for ‘business as usual’ has led him to be involved in debates about social media on BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Gloucestershire.
What is your area of specialism/industry?
- I provide strategic digital and social media advice on behalf of corporate, media and political communication clients. Despite by my age, I’m lucky enough to have worked with over 30 organisations including a number of banks, DuPont, Adobe UK, and even the Falkland Islands Tourist Board.
What are you passionate about?
- In a work context, giving organisations honest advice that will provide them with return on investment, even if that advice is difficult to hear. Developing digital techniques and approaches to provide organisations with a better service. It’s also rewarding to help students and young practitioners succeed in the industry.
Walk us through your daily routine?
- It starts with a lot of coffee and until recently, ended with an alcoholic beverage. What happens in-between those times is a daily mystery, keeping my career exciting. Sometimes I’m required to travel or take part in last minute project. Alternatively it may be about delivering an ongoing service for clients, providing internal ad-hoc advice or working on new business. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time working in front of screens, so now I make sure I keep fit at lunch and after work; keeps the mind healthy.
Tell me one interesting fact about you that you have never revealed on your blog?
- I’m a published poet.
Which is your social media platform of choice and why?
- Twitter is still my favourite social network due to the connections I’ve built over the last eight years. Twitter’s approach to open data also makes measurement easy.
What’s the best campaign you have been involved in and why?
- Not so much a campaign, but a project. One of my career defining roles was writing the social media strategy for a prominent central bank. Consequently, this strategy was shared with other central banks across the globe. Not a bad achievement from somebody in his mid-20s – although sadly NDAs refrain me from publicly talking about it in detail. Shame.
What do you think the biggest issue effecting your clients or business is this year?
- Without a doubt it’s online reputation. So many organisations have experienced negative consequences of trusting SEO agencies to manage content marketing for them, only for them to be penalised by Google. It’s also common to come across companies who have trusted agencies with Wikipedia related work, but have consequently had their accounts banned and articles flagged. As a certified member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), professionalism is important, if only to deliver compliant work on behalf of companies who need help.
What is your favourite blog/website/podcast (in relation to the topic) and why?
- Without a doubt the best PR podcasts are distributed on the For Immediate Release network, especially The Hobson & Holtz Report (http://forimmediaterelease.biz/index.php).
What advice would you give to those starting out in the industry (Top tip for newbies)?
- Begin building your professional network now, read and write every day, and enter every situation as a sceptic.
Do you believe Marketing, PR, and SEO will merge into one?
- There are budget battles happening in boardrooms across the UK because all three of these areas have already merged. This is shown by the requests we get as an agency. It’s my belief that the entire marketing mix should sit under the umbrella of PR because everything ties back into reputation.
Is content really still king and if so which type?
- There have been variations of “content is king” or “conversations are king” over the years. Content can initiate and continue conversations, although we shouldn’t fall into the trap of producing poor content because it draws in lots of clicks (clickbait). Deep down, I’m still a lover of long form content and don’t want to lose this to valuing web clicks.
Do you think Google will eventually rid the world of SEO?
- Google will continue to push paid for solutions and restrict access to their tools (such as Keyword Planner) for customers only. However, SEO is just maths because search placements are driven by algorithms – therefore organically influencing results will never disappear. Due to this, SEO will always play an important part of PR.
Do you think brands will have less marketing power over customers as digital grows?
- Many organisations still spend a lot of money on polishing their logo, when really their reputation is being set by the conversations happening about them on and offline. Sadly, investment in advertising won’t help combat this, only PR. Organisations have influence over online conversations but only if they invest their money in the right places; invest in community.
Could you point out a campaign that really impressed you this year and why?
- The #Bath4Banks by TransferWise (http://bath4banks.com/). A simple integrated campaign that highlighted the benefits of TransferWise whilst also tackling its competition in a humorous manner.
How do you think an ever increasing growth in technology will change the marketing sector?
- The growth in technology is changing stakeholder behaviours, which means the way we communicate must evolve over time. The job I now have didn’t exist when I was at secondary school. Even at the start of University (2008) the marketing sector wasn’t nearly as well digitally adept as it is now.
What do you do in your spare time?
- I spend most of my time reading or writing – especially interested in western philosophy, true historical stories, and digital liberalism. I also listen to a lot of music, including playing the electric guitar quite badly.
Email or call discuss?
- Stay away from email! Always prefer a call or meeting in person. Productivity in the PR industry is sapped by too many people watching their email inbox for new items.
It’s the end of the world what would you spend your last £10 on?
- You want the honest answer? Probably a strong alcoholic beverage and cigarettes. I don’t smoke anymore but if it’s the end of the world health doesn’t matter, right?
Who would you have your last meal with?
- A loved one.
Name one tool you have started using recently which you think is useful?
- NodeXL by the Social Media Research Foundation builds network graphs from Twitter data. It’s incredibly useful for social media programme planning, which is why I’m writing a chapter on it for the (upcoming) second PRStack book.
Finally, if you have one thought to leave us with what would it be?
We should all be concerned about the growth of the dark web. Social networks such as Snapchat and Whatsapp are locked down and near impossible to measure, at least compared with the openness of Twitter. When Twitter starts to decline, the entire social media industry may need to revaluate how it measures its worth.