PR Interview with Jeremy Clarke, MD, LawsonClarke PR

May 31, 2011

Reproduced from FeaturesExec Media Bulletin, 31 May 2011:

Every fortnight, our PR interviews profile an agency head to find out more about their work, their clients and working with the press. Jeremy Clarke, managing director of consumer agency LawsonClarke PR, shares his advice on choosing a PR consultancy and using social media.

About the agency

What areas of PR does the agency specialise in?

LawsonClarke PR is primarily a consumer agency, specialising in automotive, property, home interest and lifestyle, which embraces everything from travel, children’s interests, sport, health & wellbeing. The business was founded in 1981 – 30 years ago this year, and has broadly remained in these market categories, although property has developed strongly as a core pillar over the past five years.

What is special about your agency’s approach to PR?

We have a dedicated team of experienced consultants – not uni-fresh youngsters – who work hard and see things from both the client’s and journalist’s perspective. We know what both parties want to achieve, and aim to meet these requirements quickly, effectively and cost efficiently.

How do you ensure clients get the right coverage in the press?

I believe we have a fairly relaxed approach to how we work with journalists, by working with them rather than bombarding them with material they’re not interested in! We start by targeting the right people – increasingly freelancers, finding out what they want, tailoring our clients’ news and having secured their interest, bending over backwards to meet their timescale and need for interviews/quotes/hi-res images etc.

We say that half the job is about being proactive, the other half reactive which simply means having an effective press office in place to help. Journalists often say they come back to us because they know they’ll get what they want quickly and efficiently, which isn’t the case with many other agencies.

What do you look for in new recruits?

Experience, enthusiasm, commitment and flexibility.

We only field specialist consultants – either with particular market sector experience or communication skills – who get the job done without the fluff and flaff!

About clients

What advice would you give to clients choosing a PR consultancy?

There’s a lot for a client to think about when appointing an agency, and I’ve touched on many of these points in my recent blog post, ‘Choosing a PR consultancy and getting it right’.

While relevant experience, creativity, knowing the press, a successful track record and social media skills are all important, chemistry seems to be the clincher for most enduring client/consultancy relationships. Finding a fair and equitable budget level that meets the expectations of both parties also removes the angst that can scupper a relationship further down the line.

Tell us about the clients you are working with at the moment. What sectors are they in, and how are the campaigns for them going?

Brabantia the housewares brand has been a client for over 20 years, but there’s always something new to talk about. Last year we took them in to social media in a big way, launching @BrabantiaLife on Twitter, a blog, Facebook and Flickr. This year the brand is broadening its offer by moving into casual dining, and we have a major press launch next month at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Richmond Villages has been a client for several years. The company designs, builds and operates luxury retirement villages. We are profiling the company’s five villages and positioning them for their aspirational lifestyle, and with great success. Coverage in the last week has appeared in key target media such as The Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Lady.

SsangYong is a Korean car company and has appointed us to help profile the brand in the UK, and launch its new crossover model, the Korando. We have been involved on a ‘soft launch’ of Korando which started with an international press preview in Mallorca, resulting in some extremely positive media coverage, including an unprecedented seven pages in Autocar.

Clients Butler Sherborn, Ecospace, Manningford Croft, and The Bay at Talland keep us busy on the property front. With a wide variety of stories – from million-pound country properties, to eco homes and designer garden offices, we have had a lot of different angles to pitch to the national and consumer property media, and again with spot-on targeted results.

Is there a potential client you’d love to work for?

We have worked with major corporates, international brands, public sector clients and SMEs (small and medium size enterprises), and for us, doing satisfying work for appreciative clients who we enjoy working with and for a fair return is the name of the game. It’s certainly not about massaging our egos by representing brand x, y or z.

Which campaign are you most proud of?

Our ongoing work for Brabantia is continually satisfying. As the brand has evolved its product range in line with developing trends in design, food, cooking and casual living, we have adapted our messages and outputs to the media, which has itself evolved by spawning a raft of new consumer titles focusing on theses areas, as well as online.

About you

Do you use social media? If so, how useful do you find it?

I was an early adopter of Twitter and definitely an advocate of social media, or online PR as I prefer to call it. My recent blog post entitled ‘Social media made easy’ is designed to help those not yet using it or who remain unconvinced, and to demonstrate that it’s only a small step on from using e-mail or the internet.

Useful? It’s invaluable, and I use it for keeping current and building relationships; we’ve even been offered work by tweet!

Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon?

As someone once said to me, “You can’t do PR from behind a desk” – meaning you’ve got to get out there. I try to attend a varied mix of events – professional, sectoral, regional. You never know what you’re going to learn and who you’re going to meet. As a member of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association I attend a number of their events which can be training focused (currently on social media), meeting other PRs or journalists.

My next, albeit slightly unusual networking event will be taking my old TR6 sports car on the annual Guild of Motoring Writers classic car trip to France; it’s a great opportunity to catch up with motoring hacks in a relaxed environment without a story pitch being involved!

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