2019 was certainly not a quiet year in the media world. In fact sometimes it’s felt like the press and social media have leaped from one PR disaster to another. There’s been some great wins, too, so here’s Clarity’s look globally at some of the top stories and creative stunts of 2019.



January – Greggs

British bakers Greggs launched their Vegan sausage roll right at the start of January – owning Veganuary. But it was their trolling of former CNN presenter and breakfast TV host Piers Morgan with this tweet that really made the story. Hitting all your PR targets for the year on January 2nd – awesome.


February – Huawei Mate X

huawei mate failHuawei wowed the world – and got the jump on Samsung – by revealing their Mate X folding phone ahead of MWC. Just a shame for them that a few months later Trump’s trade war with China had cost their relationship with Android, leaving the company out in the cold.


March – TikTok

Charli Damelio

TikTok hit over 1 Billion in downloads at the start of the year and ended with over 1.5 Billion views becoming the breakout social media star of the past 2 years. Influencers have had their issues this year (with the Fyre festival documentary coming out in January) but new TikTok stars like 15-year-old Charli D’amelio earning thousands of dollars per post.


April – Samsung Galaxy Fold

samsung fold fail

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold initially got great reviews and notes from the journalists we know…. at first. But by April the phones were starting to break after early users tried to removed the protective screen, causing Samsung to pull the release of their star product.


May – Embarrassing Plastic Bags

Canadian shop East West Market came up with a novel way to shame users from using single-use plastic bags – make them as embarrassing as possible. The genius idea was picked up all over the world.


June – Led by Donkeys

led by donkeys

Trump’s visit to the UK was seized on by Led By Donkeys. Within moments of the US President landing in the UK he was already being trolled by the disruptive organization.


July – Paddy Power

paddy power

Our UK team loved this stunt from betting firm Paddy Power. Announcing one of the most over-the-top and hideous football kits of all time, they then went on to reveal an ‘unsponsorship’ removing their brand entirely to ‘give shirts back to the fans’.


August – Greta crosses the Atlantic

greta thunburg

Greta Thunberg lives her principals and, by crossing the Atlantic in a zero-emission yacht to attend the United Nations climate summit, drew even more attention to climate change. While there’s perhaps some cynicism that she is a ‘media creation’, by the end of the year she had become a best-selling author and Time Magazine’s person of the year.

global warming

More subtle was this online stunt from the University of Reading – showing global warming in an infographic for each geographical location. Clever and shocking you can take a look at yours at https://showyourstripes.info/ – Here’s the warming stripes for California from 1895 – 2018.


September – Samuel L. Alexa

samuel l jackson

If you’ve got the budget of Jeff Bezos, then why not get in Samuel L. Jackson to voice Alexa. Possibly playing on an 80 Gumdrops viral spoof from 2 years ago, nonetheless, it was an impressive use of a celebrity’s dulcet tones.


October – Female Role Models

crypto queen

2019 had its fair share of role models falling from grace in the so-called ‘Techlash’. Whether it was the trail of Elizabeth Holmes for Theranos, Greek STEM hero Eleni Antoniadou or One Coin founder Dr Ruja Ignatova, 2019 showed us that sometimes things in tech are not all they seem. We highly recommend the Bad Blood book on Theranos or the BBC’s ‘Missing Crypto Queen’ podcast to learn more on how these figures built their alleged scams.


November – Highlighting Prince Andrew

prince andrew

The less said on Prince Andrew’s car crash interview, the better (though if you want more – read our blog post). We’re not sure if this is an official advert for Staedtler, but whoever came up with this – it’s genius.


December – Peloton Failpeloton

December had its fair share of fails – from WeWork’s issues, Magic Leap’s poor sales to Peloton’s sexiest advert wiping $1 billion in value from the company overnight. But we loved how fast Ryan Reynold’s team at Aviation Gin turned this cheeky news hijack around:

2019 has definitely been lively – and that’s before adding any phone calls with Ukraine into the mix. But we hope you’ve enjoyed our wrap of the year and look forward to new a decade of creative PR in 2020.

I’m thrilled to announce some huge news: this week we completed the acquisition of Dynamo PR, dramatically increasing the size of our team and the range of services we offer our clients.

I’ve long admired Dynamo for its creativity and culture as well as the stiff (but friendly!) competition they’ve consistently provided Clarity since the day we started.

To bring together Clarity and Dynamo under one roof will doubtless create huge opportunity for our respective people and clients.

The deal gives us significant scale in the UK market, nearly doubling the size of our London team to a headcount of 25. Our San Francisco office also welcomes some exceptional Dynamo talent as a result of the acquisition.

Paul and Peter, Dynamo’s founders, have done an amazing job of building an agency brand renowned for its vibrant culture and outstanding work. I’ve long been in awe of their creative and innovative approach to building their agency, and I can’t wait to learn from them as we move forward together as one company.

Dynamo is the third world-class agency we’ve acquired since August of last year (DRSmedia and Brew LA being the other two), and plans are already underway for more in 2020. This underlines the scale of our ambition, the strength of the core business and the confidence in our vision.

Welcome, Team Dynamo! I can’t wait to get started on working with you all to reimagine what a global communications agency looks like.

Every PR person or journalist loves a good global PR fail. The truth is often media is so carefully managed that we rarely see what, after the fact, looks like an apocalyptically bad idea. Even since 2016, where the rules on truthfulness in media have become somewhat lax, you can often still see the logic in someone like Trump putting blatant untruths out there.

But Prince Andrew’s interview last week was just so toe-curling excruciating for a PR person to watch. So, with Prince Andrew 8th in line to the British throne, let’s look at 8 key errors he made.

1. Doing the interview in the first place

PR people are media junkies, we love consuming media and, therefore, being able to advise our clients on what to do, and, crucially, what not to do. If your client is asked to do Bill Deadman on NBC or Panorama on the BBC, then it should start ringing bells that the “opportunity” is possibly a hatchet job. The same should’ve happened here.

2. Failing to listen to his PR’s advice

Prince Andrew had recently hired a new PR advisor. But he ignored their advice and the consultant left their jobs after less than 2 months in the job. Listen to your experts!

3. Arrogance

Tied into this is possibly the biggest element of the car crash interview – a self-confidence, bordering on arrogance, that believes you can’t fail when your side of the story is told. Prince Andrew mistakenly believed he’d come off better by facing the music. How wrong he was…

4. Naivety

Going back to my first point – the interview simply should never have happened. Even talking to journalists who rarely concede there are times you shouldn’t speak to the media (as they, er, have to get us and our clients to speak to them!) confided it was a huge mistake.  Andrew, of course, pleads his innocence and that the interview itself was a great opportunity to promote his charity work. If he believes that then he’s incredibly naïve.

5. Lawyer speak, PR advice and Sliminess

The interview itself just raised more questions than it answered. Can Prince Andrew sweat? Has he ever eaten in a popular British Pizza chain? Does he know his way to the bar in a nightclub? These bizarre peccadilloes were woven in with far more serious allegations regarding sex slaves, child abuse and knowing a convicted pedophile.

6. Choice of location for the interview

There has been speculation that the Queen mistakenly signed off on Buckingham Palace being ok to use for the interview. The reporter, Emily Mattlis, was perplexed by this choice “It was bizarre giving an interview to the Queen’s son, in Buckingham Palace with everything that does with that and having to ask the type of very personal questions that I had for him.”

7. “Unbecoming?”

One of the biggest moments of the interview happened at the end. Prince Andrew chose to describe Epstein’s behaviour as ‘unbecoming’, immediately interrogated by the reporter in a jaw dropping piece of TV history “Unbecoming? He was a convicted sex offender”. He refused to regret knowing the man and said he felt it had “almost” become a mental health issue for him. That qualifier in itself undermining that it had taken any toll on his mental health.

8. Misreading the news agenda

Timing is everything in PR. We’ve all seen great stories blown off the front page by, say, the UK’s Christmas General Election. The truth is while the Epstein scandal was generating huge column inches, it hasn’t been global news for a while. Andrew’s interview made the story overtake the UK’s General Election coverage and Trump’s impeachment inquiry – quite a feat. Journalists we spoke to this week were of the view that if he had not said anything then everything would have been politics heavy until the end of the year. Epstein as a story may have died down by 2020 at which point the US Election takes over and this story forgotten about.

Clarity’s PR Advice:

The British royals are known for a usual strategy of “never complain, never explain” – never should they have followed their own family motto than with the Epstein scandal. By choosing to give the interview Andrew added oxygen to a story that would have faded in the public imagination. A PR opportunity the Royals should’ve declined in the first place.


I recently had the opportunity to attend an event covering industry issues such as tech in disaster zones and AI vs ethics. Apart from tackling highly fascinating and complex issues, the event also served as a valuable reminder that good storytelling is critical, not only to individual presentations, but to the event overall. Just as each session needs a strong beginning, middle and end, so too should the conference itself.

Engaging from the Beginning

The introductory speech, or the keynote, sets the tone of an event. It’s also when you win or lose the audience. It’s either the glue or the repellent. Luckily, at this event, it was the former.

The event host kicked the event off with a compelling, personal story. To illustrate the importance of tech in emerging markets, she spoke about her experience working in Indonesia at the time of the Boxing Day tsunami. She was able to credibly share how challenging it was to identify the personal details of those injured and displaced, which consequently made it near impossible to get vital aid to them. The anecdote highlighted that, if they’d had the infrastructure of databases and communications technology available, it would have been easier to do the work, and, arguably, they could have saved more lives.

It only took ten minutes for the story, and in that ten minutes, the keynote speaker had me. By the time she left the stage, I felt I had to be there. I was confident I was going to learn during the event, and I would leave knowing more about the critical role that tech plays in disaster zone relief efforts.

Maintaining Quality through the Middle 

As in all good stories, the introduction is critical. But it’s only one of three parts. The second is the middle, and, at about 80% of the whole, it’s arguably the hardest to get right. It requires you sustain the audience engagement you created during the introduction for an extended period of time. It’s often where interest wanes and you see people checking their phones or start talking the person next to them. Your job, as a presenter, is to bring them back into the story.

This particular event had some good examples of how this can be achieved. One presenter asked the audience indirect questions and repeated powerful stats. These techniques have the effect of actively engaging the audience; telling us that we are part of the presentation, not inactive recipients of a monologue.

There was also some don’ts. One person shamelessly plugged his book in the first minute – an instant turn-off. Conferences aren’t the right venue for self-promotion of your book, blog, company, product, etc. Speakers should always keep this adage in mind: “Don’t tell the audience what you want to tell them – tell them what they need to hear.’

In another unfortunate instance, a presenter positioned a particular point as a “ground-breaking idea,” when in reality, it was something obvious to the entire audience. It was a clear underestimation of the level of knowledge in the room that I’m sure left some of the audience soured.

There were also a wide range of dos and don’ts around presentation content. First and foremost, the presenter is the storyteller. He or she should be centre stage. The slides are simply there to guide or illustrate. But in the case, there were decks featuring too much or too tiny text and other distractions, which all take away from the story being told. To be effective, simplicity is key. Few words, emotional statements, key facts, video and images – these are the tools with which the narrator can build a balance, with the non-verbal content enhancing, not detracting from the speaker.

End with an Invitation

Just as the beginning of the event is critical to draw the audience in set them up for engagement with what’s to follow, the end of the presentation serves an equally important function: to leave the audience with the desired impact. No presentation should end like a damp squib, leaving the audience feeling indifferent to what has just been presented. It needs to leave us with a strong impression, a desire to take action, a message that we pass on or further questions to ponder. It should be a door opener or an invitation for us to explore further.

Several days after this particular event, I’m still thinking about it. I wonder what would have happened to some of the victims at Banda Aceh if there had been a more effective way to reach them. And I feel compelled to action, with knowledge of the organisations I can support so I can play a role in achieving their mission.


Today marks the advent of a new phase in Clarity’s growth story: we have entered into a strategic partnership with The Brewery, the independent network of companies linked to communications agency freuds, one of the most renowned communications agencies in the world.

The deal sees The Brewery invest in Clarity and take a minority shareholding. As part of the agreement, the Los Angeles office and operations of Brew PR will become part of Clarity.

This partnership gives Clarity significant scale and reach in the U.S., some amazing new talent and exciting clients, plus the financial backing to accelerate the execution of our ambitious growth strategy.

The deal also represents a powerful public endorsement of our vision from one of the most respected and successful agency leaders in the world. We are confident that having Matthew Freud, Arlo Brady and the whole freuds leadership team invested in Clarity’s success will increase the already-significant opportunities for Clarity’s growth and expansion.

In a little less than seven years since launching, we’re now nearly 50 people across four vibrant offices in major global epicentres of innovation. Whilst I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved, I genuinely feel like we’ve only just started.

With the ink now dry on our deal with The Brewery, we have an incredible foundation on which to build a new kind of global agency.

I’m convinced that our exceptional leadership team, positive culture, clear vision and collective ambition presents us with a unique opportunity to establish Clarity in the coming months and years as one of the most fearless, innovative and successful communications agencies in the world.

If you’d like to join us on this journey, please email me: [email protected]

In Part II of the Clarity Pumpkin Spice Index, the recent declines in pumpkin spice (PS)-related media coverage led me to hypothesize that, perhaps, people are remembering they like hot chocolate more. But the fact is, quantity of media coverage does not necessarily relate to consumption levels. To get a better idea of whether that is or isn’t the case, we decided to dig up some real people pumpkin spice season (RPPSS) data.

According to a survey conducted by spice brand Spice Islands, 46 percent of Americans consume more PS-flavored products during fall than they do chocolate products. How much chocolate those people consume year ‘round wasn’t disclosed, so we can’t accurately say they like PS better than chocolate.

Regardless, the Spice Island survey showed that a lot of people actually are consuming PS-flavored items on the regular. As we see in the chart below, 66 percent said they consume one to three of these items per week during fall. 69 percent indicated they’d had at least one PS thing within the year. I guess 31 percent of Americans are PS Abstainers (PSAs).

We had our friends at Chicory, whose technology makes recipes instantly shoppable, take a look at activity from their platform to see what other RPPSS insights we could glean.

For one, we see that RPPSS starts later than does media PSS (MPSS). From August 1 to 15, nary a pumpkin appeared in the platform’s top 100 recipes. During the second half, two made the cut, then in the first half of September, the total hit seven.

From August 16 to 31, the big winner by views was Pumpkin Bars, however Pumpkin Caramel Cream Cheese Poke Cake (are you hungry yet?) had much higher engagement.

Even after RPPSS kicks in in September, it’s interesting to note that all but one of our pumpkin recipes are for sweets – and the odd man out is for Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice. Not a single one of the pumpkin recipes in Chicory’s Top 100 for the first half of September is a Pumpkin Spice drink. Pumpkin bars remain the winner when it comes to views, but pumpkin snickerdoodles and the aforementioned homemade pumpkin pie spice win the engagement war, each with a .85% CTR (Chicory’s benchmark is .4).

Since there’s a clear interest in homemade pumpkin pie spice, Chicory also looked at the breakdown of views for each of PS’s core components and how they change over time. Across the board, cinnamon is the clear leader, dwarfing all of the other PS parts (PSPs) and PS itself. This reminded me of the classic Seinfeld quote, “Cinnamon. It should be on tables in restaurants along with salt and pepper. Anytime someone says, “Ooh, this is so good – what’s in this?” the answer invariably comes back, ‘cinnamon.’”

All of our PSPs are gaining views over time, but not necessarily proportionally. For example, PS itself moved from Chicory’s 325th most viewed ingredient between August 1st through 15th, to the 137th most viewed between September 1st through 15th.

When it comes to PS-flavored products on Chicory, there’s also a clear buildup of interest over time. And, despite the recipe trends, there’s a strong interest in PS-flavored drinkables. Pumpkin spice coffee creamer was the top viewed item by a mile, followed by Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses and Pumpkin Spice Chips, but vodka and liqueurs (including Kahlua) are also in the running.

We’ll get our hands on data from September 15 to October 15th and update soon!

Today, Clarity is proud to announce a few pieces of exciting news. First and foremost is the official launch of our Financial Services and Venture Capital Practice.

Under the leadership of industry veteran Michael Celiceo, the practice will operate globally in cooperation with our teams in London, New York and San Francisco. They’ve already signed on some fantastic clients, including BootstrapLabs, PIVA, Scrum Ventures, Even and Monzo.

In other news, we’ve added have some key hires joining our executive team. In the role of CFO is Jason Stark, a seasoned expert in the needs of international organizations who also has significant experience with mergers and acquisitions. He’s an incredible talent who is sure to play a critical role as we continue to grow globally.

Jacob Whitish, formerly Vice Consul for the U.K.’s Department for International Trade in California, is also joining Clarity as our first Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing. A member of the British-American Business Council of Northern California’s Board of Directors, Jacob has unrivaled experience and extensive connections that will enable us to execute on our strategy to accelerate business development worldwide.

Here is the full press release:

Clarity PR Launches Financial Services Practice, Global Partner Network and Adds Senior Hires to Global Leadership Team

Michael Celiceo, Jason Stark and Jacob Whitish brought on to drive global growth

NEW YORK, NY – October 10, 2019 – Global integrated communications agency Clarity today announced the launch of a dedicated Financial Services practice, offering full-service strategic communications services to venture capital and disruptive fintech companies. The practice, which operates globally in cooperation with the Clarity teams in New York, London and San Francisco, represents VC firms like BootstrapLabs, PIVA and Scrum Ventures, among a great many others as well as fintech companies like Even and Monzo.

Leading the new practice group is Michael Celiceo as Managing Director. Celiceo is a well-respected industry veteran with over 20 years’ experience working with fast-growing financial services and technology companies in Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York City, Tel Aviv and London. Joining Celiceo are Jaclyn Hartnett and Rozeta Andres, who collectively bring over a decade of experience working with financial services companies and firms in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Clarity is also announcing the appointment of Jason Stark as its new Chief Financial Officer. Responsible for driving the business’s commercial ambitions globally, Jason brings significant international expertise and M&A experience to support Clarity’s high-growth strategy and long-term ambitions having held CFO roles in London, Singapore and the U.S. for companies including Media Business Insights, Danka Business Systems, YouTap and Motorsport Network.

In addition, the company has appointed Jacob Whitish, formerly Vice Consul for the U.K.’s Department for International Trade in California, as its first Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing. Also a member of the British-American Business Council of Northern California’s Board of Directors, Jacob has unrivaled experience and extensive connections among the tech and business communities in the U.S., U.K. and E.U. While based in San Francisco, he will be responsible for driving business development and marketing strategy for the organization worldwide.

To strengthen its global capabilities, Clarity has also launched its new Global Partner Network, a collaboration with top independent agencies in key markets to provide account support to clients around the world:

Clarity’s growth has been spurred by significant client wins and accolades for the agency following its rebrand in early 2019.

Client Wins

  • London: Connected home insurance specialist Neos, technology career marketplace Hired and electric vehicle charging station network ChargePoint
  • New York: Email risk assessment provider Emailage, true passwordless security leader HYPR and 360° video conferencing device creator Owl Labs
  • San Francisco: Services marketplace Way.com, human-device interface innovation lab Sentons and full-stack IoT solutions provider Particle.

Industry Recognition

  • Hermes Creative Awards: Platinum honors, Television Placement (HYPERVSN, The Today Show)
  • PR World Awards: Gold honors, Achievement of the Year, Technology (Entrupy campaign)
  • Ragan & PR Daily’s ACE Awards: Honorable mention, B2B Agency
  • PR Daily Media Relations Awards: Honorable mention, Brand Messaging or Positioning (CHEQ Campaign)
  • Holmes Report SABRE EMEA Awards: Finalist, Technology: Hardware (HYPERVSN campaign)

Clarity Founder and CEO Sami McCabe said: “Clarity is committed to telling the stories of the smartest and most exciting companies around the world. By bringing exceptional new talent to the team, our new, dedicated practice area and our global partner network, we’re able to bring our expertise to more brands and achieve our ambitions faster. We have big plans to shake up the market with our fearless approach to communications and our disruptive and entrepreneurial agency model, so keep watching this space.”


Believe it or not, Starbucks didn’t invent pumpkin spice. McCormick did. Still, Starbucks, or more accurately, their brilliant marketing of the pumpkin spice latte (PSL), is likely responsible for making it synonymous with fall. And with coffee.

As we delve deeper into the media coverage this Pumpkin Spice Season (PSS), we noticed that, from a brand perspective, Starbucks owns the PSS conversation. As the chart below shows, as far as quantity of coverage is concerned, Starbucks’ share of voice dwarfs that of other hot seasonal products. Dunkin’ barely registered on our chart, and it’s the most challenger-ing of all the PS beverage purveyors.

Pumpkin Spice Spam (PSSP) was the shiny new object on the block this year, so it garnered a considerable amount of media attention. That spike you see on September 23rd? That’s the day PSSP hit the digital shelves – and promptly sold out. But, while PSSP had more coverage when announced and when released, Starbucks still overwhelms in overall coverage quantity.

What I found interesting is that line between PSSP and Starbucks. That’s all the references to PS coffee/latte/cold brew that isn’t from Starbucks or Dunkin’. That shows that Starbucks may have started the PSL craze, but it’s not necessarily going to own it forever.

For now, though, the amount of non-Starbucks PS coffee discussion is still far below that of Starbucks. But what about PS that isn’t necessarily coffee? Well, that’s an entirely different chart:

As you can see, when you look at the overall quantity of Starbucks vs. non-Starbucks PS-related media coverage, Starbucks isn’t as dominant as it seems.

And how about year over year? I looked at Starbucks coverage from August 1st to December 1st each year from 2014 to 2018 and found that peak PSL seems to have occurred in 2015, when it garnered 3,850 English-language pieces of media coverage – up 1,375% from the prior year. People must have had a sugar hangover in 2016, because the quantity dropped 62% that year. 2017 and 2018 were up again, but still didn’t reach 2015 levels.

My next question was, does all PS coverage rise and fall with Starbucks? The answer is, sort of. There was a huge jump from 2014 to 2015 (+609%), then unlike Starbucks’ trendline, the general PS coverage kept climbing until it hit peak PSS in 2017.

What have we learned from this analysis? Well, brand-wise, Starbucks still owns PSS, but it’s still a just one part of a giant PSS conversation. And, while PSS started earlier this year and, at least to me, it feels like it’s bigger than ever this year, it’s actually on the decline.

Perhaps people are remembering that they actually like hot chocolate better.

In our next installment, we’ll look at trending recipes and what people are actually buying!

We all know about Christmas creep – and, in fact, it’s probably our colleagues in marketing who are behind it – but this year we had another “season” start prematurely: Pumpkin Spice Season (PSS).

It’s mostly Starbuck’s “fault” that we have PSS to begin with. Still, they’re certainly not the only brand pushing the taste (and smell) of that (in)famous blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

This year, I decided to take a look at the media coverage of all things pumpkin spice (PS) to see what trends I can schuss out. I admit, the endeavor is a bit like a pumpkin spice Oreo: not really necessary, but kinda good in its own way.

Our first big burning question is, when does PSS start?

The answer: late July.


With monitoring beginning Memorial Day, we see that a couple of PS-related articles pop up here and there, but the first spike is really July 22, when three brands announced product launches: Captain Morgan (Jack-O-Blast Pumpkin Spice Rum), Kit Kat (Pumpkin Pie flavor) and Yankee Candle (Fall Collection). The peak is still sub 50 hits per day, though.

Things pick up a bit in early August, then we see a giant spike when Starbucks announces the launch date for its famous Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL). Starbucks essentially owns the conversation until August 26, when they blew the minds of PSL lovers everywhere by launching a cold brew version. Also on the 26th, we see Spam get into the game, hitting their peak coverage on August 28th.


By the time we hit September 1, most of our product launches are done, however, along with some non-Starbucks coffee brands, Krispy Kreme comes with its seasonal selections on September 2, then the never-to-be-underestimated Poo-Pourri comes in on September 5. For those not already in a sugar coma, Twinkies come to the rescue on September 15.

In the next update to the Pumpkin Spice Index, we’ll look at some specifics on how the media are covering which products, and how almost every article about every product mentions Starbucks somewhere.

I was invited by my pal Jeanne Meyer, founder of Watch This Space and advisor to Venwise, a membership-based community for C-level executives, to join a roundtable for a number of CMOs. With me was my old friend, Laura Nelson, Chief Communications Officer at Nielsen, and Steph Tuck, VP of Comms at PopSugar, to provide an insider perspective on PR dos and don’ts.

With marketing leaders from innovative brands including insurance marketplace Policygenius, healthy dog food brand Ollie, home services marketplace Handy, flexible spending shop FSAStore.com and premium custom menswear company Knot Standard, I was excited about hearing their questions and doing my best to answer them.

One of the most interesting/surprising questions was whether they should expect that their PR firms come to them, proactively, with fresh, new ideas. Needless to say, all of us “experts” agreed: if your PR agency isn’t coming to you with ideas, then it’s time for a new agency! After all, their creativity is among the reasons you hire them, so it is absolutely expected to be part of the deal.

Once we put that to bed (!) they wanted to know how to measure the success of their PR activities. And, as we know, attribution is a much tougher question to address. PR is not a science, and it’s hard to get marketers – who are metrics-oriented by profession – to accept the murkiness of PR as a discipline (sometimes, despite the various measurement tools that exist, the most meaningful metric is your neighbor telling you they saw you in The New York Times!). Ollie co-founder Gabby Slome mentioned a Wired story on her company that drove more customers than any other – even one in a more consumer-y outlet like O Magazine.

Bottom line, we can’t always predict which stories will have that certain something. But in the end, lasting momentum and impact is driven not by one story or another. It’s the accumulation of stories over time and the combination of tactics that work best to achieve the desired outcome. It is, however, our obligation as the agency to provide whatever metrics we can to enable marketers to convey value to their higher ups.

Additionally, we pointed out that seeing the results of PR campaign on brand value often takes more time to work than a paid campaign does. But that time is often worth the investment because PR can generate a third-party halo with influence that cannot be denied.

As the event was wrapping up, one of the CMOs asked what the secret to a successful PR campaign is. Once again, consensus reigned: an open and collaborative partnership with a constant flow of communication between agency and client. Plus a good story, of course.

I thank Jeanne and Venwise for giving me opportunity to meet to this group of dynamic young marketeers, and I look forward to seeing great things from these brands in the future!


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