Last week Rich Leigh, account director at Gloucester based 10 Yetis PR and newly named in PR Week’s 29 under 29 list of young PR talent, spoke to the Journalism and Public Relations (JPR) society at Leeds Metropolitan University.
At only 25 Rich is still a young man – not much older than the students at his talk – however he is very knowledgeable about the industry and seemingly has extra fingers in many PR pies. He has worked on campaigns that virtually everyone has heard about, including Paddy Power’s Ryder Cup sky-writing stunt.
To give you a feel for just how many pies, he is:
- Co-founder of bloggabase – a service to connect bloggers with PR, SEO and other marketing individuals and companies with products, services, events and experiences they wish to promote.
- Creator of PR examples – A blog dedicated to celebrating the best in up-to-date PR/social media stunts and campaigns.
- Brain behind the CRAPP’s (Communicative Relations Awards from PR Professionals).
- Oh, and he also finds the time to write a column for PR Moment – an online magazine for the PR sector looking behind the scenes of the PR industry, highlighting best practice and giving insight into recent PR campaigns.
One yeti, two yetis, three yetis, more…
He told us that after leaving school, he initially spent his time working as a personal trainer before he was offered a role within the embryonic 10 Yetis agency as their first employee.
Now two years into his role as account director within the twenty-strong firm, Rich was keen to pass on some of his insights to fledgling PRs.
During the course of his talk ‘How not to be a buzzword-spouting PR clone’, two things really stood out: firstly he knew his audience backwards.
His Super Mario-themed presentation used virtual canvas storytelling software to target the group’s nostalgia and immediately everybody was on the same page without a single word being uttered (with the exception of a slightly bemused senior lecturer also present).
Secondly he is hugely passionate about PR. That he overran due to the sheer volume of information he wanted to share, almost to the point of missing his train home, spoke volumes about the man.
The main themes of Rich’s talk were to give a frank and honest insider’s view of today’s industry and to address some of his pet peeves, such as the overuse of relatively meaningless buzzwords and praise where it probably isn’t due.
PR – what is it good for?
While his presentation was extremely slick, he showed through numerous well known examples that the most successful campaigns are those with the perfect balance of style and substance, saying: “at the end of the day your aim is generally an increase in revenue, if it doesn’t tie in with the client’s product or service no amount of cute kittens is going to achieve that!”
He also takes the view that in a relatively small industry, we seem to have an awful lot of awards, some of which are given on questionably irrelevant metrics, giving an example of a campaign recently praised primarily for the resulting rise in ‘likes’ on its social media channels.
“Awareness and engagement; yes, you’ve got that, but what else? You have nothing for the client’s accountant but outgoings, and no return on their investment!”
As a first year PR student, what I took away from Rich’s lecture was that:
- You must be creative in your approach, but crucially you have to stay relevant to the end goal.
- You mustn’t get too caught up in awards and recognition – some of the best work in PR is often overlooked, the top flight campaign can go entirely unnoticed.
- It’s the very nature of the business to be fleeting. Being put on retainer means very little – if you don’t produce results you won’t have that client for long.
Though he might not thank me for saying this, Rich Leigh gave a very ‘engaging’ lecture. He also drove audience participation and reflection on this new perspective, even managing to achieve a small buzz around it on twitter from the small cohort of JPR society students attending.