I was really honoured when one of my favourite tweeters and industry leaders, Andrew Bloch, agreed to feature in the #4PRQs (Four PR Questions) series. Andrew is Founder and Group Managing Director of Frank PR. He has acted as official spokesperson for Lord Sugar since 2001, and has handled the PR for all Apprentice winners since the show started in 2005. Andrew can be also found in the PR Week Power Book. He advises PR graduates on never taking ‘no’ as an answer.
MK: What was your way to the industry?
AB: I had originally set my heart on a career in advertising. To be honest I didn’t even know what PR was. Desperate to land a gig at an ad agency I wrote letter after letter and also sent off a few inquiries to PR agencies without giving it a second thought. When someone from Lynne Franks PR (the infamous agency which inspired Absolutely Fabulous) called to offer me work experience I thought it was a good chance to fill my days while pursuing my advertising dreams in the evenings. From the second I was there I thought it was the best job in the world…I just couldn’t believe that this was a job.
I knew I had to get myself noticed if I had any chance of landing a full-time role, although I hadn’t quite anticipated how quickly I would achieve this goal. My first day working at Lynne Franks is certainly one I will never forget. Lynne Franks worked for BT Pagers, at the time revolutionary technology for the consumer market, and the account manager said to me ‘we’re desperate for consumer coverage and we can’t get it into the national media’. It was at the time when news of Prince Charles and Camilla’s affair surfaced and I came up with an idea around the concept that a pager was the perfect way to conduct a discreet illicit affair. I pulled together a list of saucy messages received via one of BT’s call centres and invented some messages Charles* could* have sent to his mistress. I put together this press release and at the time was completely oblivious that there was any kind of approval procedures. My manager loved it and out it went. The next day I opened up The Sun and on page three was this massive story. Everyone was delighted – it had a picture of a pager and it was perfectly branded. Nobody could believe it – a bit of a beginner’s luck I think. It was the most high profile consumer coverage anyone had ever managed to bag for BT pagers but there was one small problem – BT was also a sponsor of marriage counselling charity Relate. Several papers picked up on this and began to make a fuss but worse was to come. Next thing I know a fax comes through from Buckingham Palace. It was a copy of a complaint letter they had sent to the then BT chairman and it had his handwritten comment on the top saying ‘fire this agency’. So that was the first ever story I sold in! The story and subsequent fallout got me noticed by then associate director Graham Goodkind who headed up the BT account at the time. Fortunately neither of us was fired. We went on to work together for three years at Lynne Franks and then in September 2000 we decided to reunite and found Frank. The rest, as they say, is history!
What piece of advice, regarding career, would you give your 20-year-old-self?
I am lucky to have always received wise advice from my father, and the advice he give me at the start of my career is in hindsight, no different to the advice I would give to my 20-year-old-self. The main advice that sticks with me today is to work hard and never to take ‘no’ for an answer. He also drilled into me his own entrepreneurial beliefs, and not to let age be a barrier to achieving what I thought I was capable of. ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ is something that I really believe in, and have tried to bring to life at Frank and communicate to everyone that works here.
The main advice that sticks with me today is to work hard and never to take ‘no’ for an answer.
How can PR graduates take advantage of the social and digital platforms, in order to gain attention of the agencies and other potential employers?
Social media gives graduates the opportunity to engage directly with key influencers within the agency world. Use it to build your knowledge of the industry, and gain an understanding of the types of companies that are doing interesting work, and that you think you would like to work for. Start to develop an online presence, whether that be on social media, or on your own blog or website. Doing this will give you an edge, when trying to get your first step on the PR ladder.
Build your knowledge of the industry, and gain an understanding of the types of companies that are doing interesting work.
What is the most undiscovered area in the industry that could be used as a dissertation topic?
One area that I believe will grow dramatically in significance over the next couple of years, is how PR can influence SEO. Google is continually developing in terms of its search sophistication, and as a result, SEO techniques need to become more sophisticated if they are be effective. The fact that Google places such high importance on high domain authority sites, means that in order to boost organic earned search rankings, you need to be able to generate coverage on these sites. This is something that PR is perfectly placed to do. When Mad Men meet Maths Men, the results can be outstanding, and the ROI is immediate. Our PR SEO division is one of the fastest growing areas of the agency.
Four PR Questions (or #4PRQs) is a weekly series on the blog. I am on the mission to help PR graduates (including myself) make right decisions about their future careers, by asking industry leaders for an advice.
Would you like to give me a feedback or feature in the series? Drop me a line to kl.marcel [at] gmail.com or tweet me @marcelkl. Thanks for stopping by, have a splendid day!