At Rise we are truly lucky to be immersed within a community of experts. Each individual has their own talent, opinion and knowledge. We decided that instead of writing what we thought of the world and the industries we all work in, why don’t we ask them?
This has part of our series of Q&A style articles that we hope will inspire you, educate you, and or empower you.
We asked Justin Cohen, the Commercial Manager of Beales Gourmet at The Italian Villa a little bit events and PR. We wanted to know a little bit about what he thought about it, and how he got into it!
RISE: PR has made a complete U-turn since the introduction of social media, do you think there is still room for the old methods that we used to use in PR?
Justin: I think that conventional PR has been accentuated by the addition of social channels. However, this is a double-edged sword. As a PR professional, your job is to manage the public reputation of your client’s business. If there are now 5-10 more channels available for your client to promote themselves, there are 5-10 sites for your client’s detractors to pan their products or services online. PR’s need to stay sharp and utilise up to date social listening tools to truly stay ahead of the game and maintain their client’s reputation. But it’s not all doom and gloom… PR is, and always has been, about relationships. The Editor of any given publication will still thank you for a good story – they’ll now just be able to share it online as well as in print/radio/tv.
RISE: As a business is having someone that takes charge of PR, events and marketing is key to the success and continuous positive change of a company?
Justin: It all depends of the allocation of company resources. There is often an argument that having an internal personal take the lead on PR, events and marketing will make for more consistent, cohesive communications. That may well be the case. However, from the opposite side of things, there is also the argument that company directors and employees are often so close to the subject that they’re trying to communicate, they may fail to see other opportunities or fresh angles. A “happy-medium” would be a strong internal coordinator (who genuinely gets “it”) who could liaise with equally strong external expert consultants.
RISE: The saying goes, ‘Any PR is good PR’, but is this really true?
Justin: I used to think this was true. I’m not so sure anymore. Some brands think that they are untouchable. I’m sure Miramax would argue the contrary now with the cloud over Harvey Weinstein and co…
But then again, look at what Nike have managed to accomplish with the Colin Kaepernick story. Some said it was a foolish move (resulting in customers burning their Nikes online, etc), but in real terms, they’ve capitalised massively on strong public empathy. That was a well-managed situation.
RISE: Events nowadays aren’t just about putting on some food and drink, it’s about providing an experience. Is there any tips or tricks you would tell companies that are thinking of hosting their own event?
Justin: I agree. People now need a reason to turn up. Gone are the days where a few vol Au vents and some bubbly would be a good enough reason to motivate guests to attend an event. Now it’s far more about the overall experience. For example when we hosted the launch of the Dorset Business Awards last year, we looked at the overall theme of the event, and tied the welcome cocktail and canape selection to that specific theme, which made the event much more memorable.
Another example… we recently launched our FOODIE club which, again, was about the experience. Yes, guests enjoyed eight courses of amazing food. Yes, every course was matched with superb wines and other drinks. Yes, the service was five star. But what guests will remember most of all was the element of theatre surrounding the evening. The al fresco setting in The Italian Garden; the Iberico ham being carved in front of them; the smell of the scallops being barbecued right in front of them; the floating candles on the pond; the expert guest speaker. I could go on. The point is that, when planning any event, you need to think “what is the REASON that I’m giving for my guests to want to turn up?”
RISE: As an individual trying to get into the industry of events and PR, do you have any words of advice? Do you think experience outweighs education in this case?
Justin: I studied marketing, but never even touched PR or events really. It was only later in my career, working for Darren Northeast PR, that I honed my PR and media skills. I’d always enjoyed writing (I still do!), so PR became another great outlet for that. I think that getting the right sort of experience will always trump educational qualifications. We always take on a number of work placement students from Bournemouth University’s Event Management programme, because we believe that the right experience will accelerate any classroom learning. Like they say: “Everything works in theory. Even communism.” It’s getting things to work in practice that is the kicker!