Prowly #PRChat is back, featuring the unique perspectives of PR professionals from industries and regions from all over the map.
This time, we’re talking to Barnaby Patchett, Managing Director at One Nine Nine Agency. After an impressive PR career working with everything from food manufacturing to medical tech to pro wrestling (wait, what?), he paired up with a friend to set up his own shop and focus on digital marketing for the music industry.
Here’s Barnaby’s take on transitioning from freelancer to an agency, the balance between using tech and keeping it “old school” and much more. Thanks, Barnaby!
What’s the best advice you can give PR freelancers who are thinking of starting their own agencies?
Do it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from other business owners!
Once I started, I realized how little I knew about growing a business – but there’s a wealth of resources and helpful people out there willing to give you the support you need. You’ll make lots of mistakes, but taking the plunge and starting is a big part of the battle.
Also, you have to keep the faith – it’s easy to focus on the negatives, especially when things go wrong! Our agency works heavily in the music and live entertainment industry, and when the pandemic hit, we lost a sizable number of clients in the first 3 months. It would have been easy to pack it in there and then, but we managed to work through it, and have come out significantly stronger and better diversified as a result. Opportunities come when you least expect them.
If you’re worried about going it alone, finding a business partner you trust will make an enormous difference. Having someone with a shared vision, different experience, and a willingness to challenge, push and motivate me has been essential. It’s also a lot more fun when you have someone to share the journey, highs, and lows with!
What is a commonly held belief in public relations that you passionately disagree with?
That it’s all about spin and hype – and we just send out stories to anyone and everyone hoping for coverage, whether or not they are relevant.
The best results in PR invariably come when you’ve got an authentic, newsworthy story to share, backed up by a clear pitch. Overselling and under delivering on a story is a short-term strategy that’s likely to cost you and your client – and it’s unnecessary.
If your clients are doing business in the right way, you’re going to have newsworthy stories to share. You don’t need to embellish.
What’s a resource, tool, or channel that PR professionals aren’t using correctly or to its fullest?
Journalists request services. I’ve heard lots of PR professionals complain that they never hear back from journalists when they respond to requests. We subscribe to a couple of journalist request services – it’s proved a fantastic way of uncovering opportunities for clients that we wouldn’t have heard about.
Part of the issue comes with the nature of responses – it’s easy to be complacent and send a cookie-cutter email back. In my experience, to be successful, you need to get the pitch right. You’ve got to make it as easy as possible for journalists to choose you.
To maximize your chances of success, get in there quickly, and provide a thoughtful, concise, and personalized response, outlining why your client is the perfect fit for the opportunity.
What’s something you or your team have recently achieved that you’re really proud of?
Working with Soapworks, the UK’s premier manufacturer of soaps, cleansing bars and solid haircare on their COP26 campaign was one of our highlights of last year.
The company developed Coastal Shores – a new sustainable, vegan soap bar, made from RSPO Certified sustainable palm oil, and supplied in FSC approved, compostable and recyclable packaging.
Soapworks wanted to use the product to promote the goals of COP26, raise awareness about the sustainability benefits of bar format personal care and emphasize the importance of responsible ingredients and packaging within the beauty industry.
We delivered on the objectives, securing print and online editorial in national newspapers The Scotsman and The Metro, as well as dedicated print and online features in all their target beauty industry media.
The campaign was a real success, reaching a potential global audience of millions of consumers and hundreds of thousands of industry professionals. In addition to the great coverage, it was a nice, feel-good campaign, where we were doing some good in the world.
What’s one successful PR tactic you are using at the moment?
Technology is fantastic – it makes so many aspects of the PR job much easier, especially finding the right contacts and distributing releases. Having said that, there’s a real danger in depending on it too much, especially when it comes to pitching big stories.
I know journalists say they hate it, but picking up the phone and doing the hard yards, old-school PR work – getting your pitch in and chasing up coverage is still an essential part of the job!
Do you use any software tools in your day-to-day work?
We use more software all the time – the danger is that with so much out there, it’s easy to get carried away.
These days, the PR essentials are a good media database, forward features planner and distribution tool, a journalist request service filtered for your key clients, a project management system, and a PR CRM.
You’ll also want an intuitive time management system so you can track each project. Other useful tools are a nice digital to-do list app that ties to your work calendar.