Mark Perkins is answering my Four PR Questions (#4PRQs) today. Mark is a Creative Director at MHP. His work includes the multi-award winning Christmas Tinner for GAME and Missing Type which recently won a Cannes Gold Lion for NHS Blood & Transplant. Last night, during the PR Week Awards, the campaign has also been named Public Sector Campaign of the Year, Campaign of the Year (Sectors) and got an award for the Most Innovative Use of Digital & Social. Mark also once did an ice cream van for dogs which made it onto national TV news from here to China.
MK: How did you get into industry?
MP: By mistake. I wanted to be a journalist. I even put myself a summer work experience job running errands for Kelvin MacKenzie at The Sun where I learned how to be shouted at. After graduating there was an offhand opportunity to work as an assistant who used to be a journalist but who had switched to PR in the cut and thrust world of convenience retail. He taught me, a cocky little upstart who didn’t even know what PR was, how to write a press release. When I saw my very same words in Asian Trader describing how retailers could get free ice cream stock if they purchased a new freezer cabinet I was hooked – and I still am.
Looking back I was extremely fortunate. Within a year I had amassed enough coverage in the likes of The Grocer and Independent Retail News to join one of the best agencies in town. One year later I worked on PR Week’s Campaign of the Year for Microsoft but it all started with placing stories on product deals and, memorably a newsagent re-opening in Orpington with a Spice Girls themed party.
What are the most desired skill you are looking for in graduates?
I can’t speak for others but for me it’s a combination of imagination and hard-work. One is not much use without the other.
How can PR graduates take advantage of it and get attention of the agencies and other potential employers?
Referring to my point above if you have a placement or an interview don’t just say you are creative or hardworking, show it. Come in with some fully formed ideas for one or two of their clients to demonstrate that you can’t just do the graduate job but have potential to offer more as a long-term investment.
That first big London agency I joined actually rejected me on first interview after a hapless display on my part (which started as I arrived through the door wearing a three-piece suit when everyone else was wearing combat trousers and t-shirts).
With nothing to lose I sent the interviewer, the MD, an assessment of my interview performance which was brutal, damning and completely accurate. It was also funny and demonstrated that I could manage a (personal) crisis with a bit of flair and insight into what they must have been thinking. I got the job.
If you have a placement or an interview don’t just say you are creative or hardworking, show it.
What is the most undiscovered area in the industry that could be potentially used as a dissertation topic?
With some many strategists and planners it’s hard to know what is still undiscovered these days. If I knew I’d be working on it right now. What I do know is that if you stick dogs in a PR campaign you increase your chances of coverage and going viral a thousand fold. Has anyone ever written a dissertation analysing that?
What is interesting at the moment is how brands are becoming more activist. In the past they used to make campaigns that showed they identified with consumer attitudes and beliefs, take Dove’s Real Women, for example. Now they are being even more challenging and setting the agenda through disruptive activism. Burger King’s McWhopper is a good example of how that was done with humour and everyone got the gag except McDonald’s.
A campaign that really excited me and everyone else at Cannes this year was #OptOutside by American outdoors retailer REI. Rather than push deals on Black Friday so people would spend their day in an undignified scrum online or in its stores REI did the opposite. They shut down their nationwide operation and gave all their staff a day off. They used their website and social channels to provide tips as to where in the US they could experience the great outdoors. It was bold, completely chimed with the values of their brand, audience insight and was counter-intuitive to every other retailer.
It’s by no co-incidence that we’ve just seen ITV’s shutdown for an hour to encourage families to go outdoors to exercise we’ve the message ‘We’ve gone running’. Expect to see more of the same for the next 12 months or so.
What is interesting at the moment is how brands are becoming more activist. In the past they used to make campaigns that showed they identified with consumer attitudes and beliefs.
Four PR Questions (#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!