I am looking forward to bringing you this episode all about Digital PR.

Digital PR is an essential element of a comprehensive communications plan. It involves ensuring that a brand’s digital presence – including websites, social media accounts, online press releases, and other digital content – is optimised and managed effectively to engage target audiences and build relationships that drive successful business results.

Often mistaken for being about getting as many people as possible to visit a website; it’s also about ensuring that the right audience is engaged in the right way with the right message.

Knowing how to execute digital PR successfully is key to achieving business goals.

Someone who knows this inside-out is Andy Barr. Andy is co-founder and co-owner of 10 Yetis Digital – an award-winning digital PR and online public relations agency that manages influencer, social media, design and PR campaigns for brands of every size. He is a Global Conference Speaker about all things social, public relations and digital and I am excited to have him on the show today.

We talk about what’s new, skills that are useful, why PRs are great at their job, and the relevance of digital PR in today’s complex PR operating context.

Let’s dive in.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Ten Yetis Website


Crisis Communications Playbook

Follow Andy on Twitter

Full Transcript (Unedited):

Emma Drake
Hello, and welcome to this episode of Communication Strategy that works with me, Emma Drake. Hi, everyone, how are we all doing today? I hope you’re doing okay. I’m really looking forward to bringing you this episode all about digital PR. This is, I would say an essential element of a comprehensive communication strategy. It involves ensuring that a brand’s digital presence including websites, social media accounts, online press releases, and other digital content is optimised and managed effectively to engage target audiences and build relationships that drive results often mistaken, I think, for being about getting as many people as possible to visit a website. It’s also about that. It’s also about ensuring that the right audience is engaged in the right way with the right message. So you know, comms 101, right? Knowing how to execute digital PR successfully is key to achieving those results. And someone who knows his inside out is Andy Barr, and he is the co-founder and co-owner of 10 Yetis and award-winning digital PR an online public relations agency that manages influencer, Social Media Design and PR campaigns for brands of all sizes. He is a global conference speaker about all things social, public relations and digital and I am super excited to have him on the show today. We talk about what’s new skills that are always useful and why PRs are great at this job, and the relevance of digital PR in today’s complex PR operating context. So let’s dive in. So Andy, welcome to the podcast. It’s finally got you on the podcast which I’m super pleased about. So thanks for coming on today and talking to us Yeah, yeah, it’s taken us a while, isn’t it? I think we originally scheduled to speak a while ago and then being the busy PR that you are we didn’t get around to it so I’m delighted to have you on today. Why don’t we start by telling people about yourself and about how you started your agency 10 Yetis.

Andy Barr
so thank you very much. I think the only reason I didn’t get on this because I’m an absolute cluster. So thanks for being so polite. So yeah, I’m My name is Andy Barr and I am the co-founder of 10 Yetis. We are 17 years old as an agency. We work in everything from obviously, PR covering all aspects of PR, social media. We have graphic designers, the video team, copywriters, ecommerce specialists all in-house, we’re still very small, so just 25 people. And you know, in terms of my personal background, I worked in-house in PR for some absolutely horrible companies like first group. And AXA in very corporate roles actually started my career as a political analyst. On my very first boss message. Yeah, my very first boss messaged me last night on LinkedIn to say, to say, Would you believe that he started off in politics? But yeah, so I worked for some horrible companies. And I thought, You know what, I’m gonna start my own agency, because be much easier. And it turns out, it’s not. So 17 years later, here we are.

Emma Drake
Well, I think if you’re still going after 17 years, you must be doing an amazing job. What’s changed in that time? Are you still doing what you set out to do? Do you think things have changed quite a lot for you over those years?

Andy Barr
I think things have changed, like, you know, I started the agency because I was in working in very dry PR sectors. You know, it’s very hard to have fun. You know, we’ve campaigned say for AXA, where you’re trying to defend not paying out an insurance claim, you know, there’s no fun or creativity around that. So I started off wanting the agency to do you know, just fun creative campaigns and whilst the creativity has remained throughout some of the campaigns that we’ve picked up you know that they’re not fun, especially around crisis communications I’ve kind of accidentally made a name for myself I think in that sector because of the stuff I did it the past and I work I used to work for a government utility company, obviously work for Unilever, AXA, people like that do some heavy crisis comms. And that sort of followed me a little bit so so yeah, it’s not fun always to do. Horrible crisis come stories, but I think the ethos of the agency around creativity stays the same, hopefully.

Emma Drake
Yeah. And you’re doing quite a lot creatively as well. I think you’re celebrating your birthday sort silently with the agency, and I’ve seen some really cool videos from you. I used to I call. I used to have a call Andy.

Andy Barr
Oh, we have an age where we can do that. I

Emma Drake
don’t I don’t know. I think that’s the wrong word. But you know, where my intentions came from?

Andy Barr
Yeah, no, I think that’s really kind I think there are a couple of things. So yeah, we just passed our 17th birthday. You know, I won’t lie. I don’t know how some people dress it up. But it’s been the toughest year and our 17-year history, I think, coming out of COVID, the economic situation has just made it a horrible year – the worst in my memory. To hit that milestone is really exciting. Some of the creative stuff that the team did was brilliant. I think that’s reflected in the other day when we, you know, we won the best use of social media for B2B, for our agency and for the content that we actually produce for ourselves, which I was completely blown away to be up against people like the BBC, and WWF. The pond is not the wrestlers. You know, with

Emma Drake
my mind, my mind immediately went wrestling at that point. Yeah,

Andy Barr
obviously. Can you smell what I’m cooking? No, probably. Anyway. Yeah, so that was pretty cool. I was quite happy. It’s

Emma Drake
amazing. Great achievement. And yeah, your videos you’ve been doing, we’ve all been watching them, I do look forward to them every day. And that’s no, that’s not just picking you up. I do actually search for them. I think all wonder what you’re doing today. They are, they are great.

Andy Barr
They become though, they’re just

Emma Drake
gonna be there forever. So

Andy Barr
luckily, my kids are of an age that they still love it and find it hilarious. And they’re makes a chat about it. They’re all in secondary school. Now, you have to be more careful, don’t you when you get into school, especially in our line of work, because you know, people, if we get Googled it, you know, it floats around forever. But it’s really good fun. The comments have been great. I’m thinking about doing a mean tweets, style video, reading out all the troll comments that I’m getting across the different platforms, because they’re absolutely hilarious. But it’s been an absolute beast of a piece of work. And again, that’s all down to the team. You know, they’re fantastic. And, you know, they pull it all together.

Emma Drake
So your team so? So why don’t we talk a bit about because we did before we came on, we talked a bit about what your team does, and how, you know, we phrase it and is it digital PR? Is it just PR? Is it content? Is it everything? And you know, I lots of people that people that come on and talk to me on the podcast, and subjects that I cover, everyone has a slightly different opinion of how they, you know, we all call things slightly different things, don’t they? And we have a bit of an identity crisis, I think in this line of work when it comes to talking about things. So we’ve been able to put be put in a box or, you know, so what’s your, what’s your kind of view on that what you know, in terms of digital, PR?

Andy Barr
Well, I guess I classify myself as a generalist jack of all trades, master of none. But so for me, digital PR is just a, you know, a new thing that’s come along with it with a new badge on it, but essentially, it’s just PR, you know, I don’t really see a difference between digital PR, and what some people call traditional PR, PR for me is full of, you know, it’s very, it’s very much like a micro marketing mix. So in PR, we’ve got traditional PR, which is probably crisis communication, stakeholder management, stakeholder engagement, you know, product pushes, is PR, and then another element of it is online PR, which, you know, which has been branded over the last four or five years is digital PR. Now that, you know, in a nutshell, and I say this quite a lot in a public environment because I want people to try and shoot me down. You know, 17 years ago, we were pioneers, you know, we started online PR if I’m honest, you know, we, my business partner was an SEO person, and they understood the value of authority links, which is when a new site, for example, like metro or, or dare I say the Daily Mail gives a follow link. So it tells Google that you should trust this site back to the client site. So that’s classed as an authority link. And we were, you know, absolute pioneers in that and I love saying it just so people can say that I’m talking rubbish. But sort of fast forward to now and that’s become a huge, multi-billion pound industry, led by some absolute world agencies like rises seven light JBH and people like that, you know, we’ve taken it to the next level, but at its core, digital PR is with SEO people trying to get links from high authority news websites. And as I frequently say, SEO people are terrible at that. The best people for doing that are PR people because we know how to tell a story. We know how to build a relationship, you know, SEO people probably try and take you out on one day and do whatever whereas PR people wine and dine yeah so so that’s why PR people should never be intimidated by this online digital PR you know, whatever you want to call it thing that’s come along, we are still PR people I class myself as traditional PR we still the best at doing that. So so that’s probably where my you know, my take on it and where my opinion comes from. It’s just a rebranded part.

Emma Drake
It’s really interesting because You know, as I said, leading into this section I think we’ll have a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to talking about the different elements of what we do. You know, and there’s always arguments about when arguments too much, but, you know, journalists that become PRs and then, you know, internal comms people that don’t do it. So we get quite, you know, defensive about it, don’t we? I think and, and I think it is, it’s skate skills, isn’t it? You know, if you break it down, it’s skills, but skills you can learn, I suppose, is two parts. For me. There’s, there’s, you should be doing it anyway. Question mark, because it’s just PR. And, you know, should you therefore should every PR, we have this in their skill set? Is it something that everyone should do? Or is it you know, is it specialist, and therefore, you know, we must work with people that do this. And, you know, I would say probably, I’m a bit split on that, because I would probably, if I was, if I was going to work, as you know, I work as an independent consultant, and I work mostly in the built environment. But if I was going to work on a bigger campaign, which I am doing, doing at the moment, I would bring in skills. So I would probably bring in someone, especially if it was an online product, or prop tech product that was online, or some sort of technology. And I don’t know why I could, I could learn more about that. But I still see it as a sort of specialist area, I suppose. I don’t know what your thoughts are about that.

Andy Barr
I think I think every element of PR is a bit scary when you first look at it. But then when you drill down into doing it, the core principles of what we’re taught in being PR people stands there, every element. So I remember, you know, when I worked for the government utility as external comms person, you know, my remit was writing press releases, posting them 200 at a time, that’s painful. And then they said, Oh, actually, we’d like to add a bit of political lobbying onto your roll. And I remember having to go down to Milbank, you know, 22, talking to OFGEM and representing the company at meetings at 22. And just thinking, You know what, this is absolute? How am I ever gonna be able to do this? It’s way outside of my skill set. Fast forward six months, you know, I’m absolutely flying. I’m loving it. I’m training other people and I’m pretending story of my career, that I’m an expert, when really, I’m an absolute blogger. So I think, you know, I think that that’s every element of PR, I think the one area where you probably need to be careful, because there are legal ramifications, is, is crisis comps, you know, if you get that wrong, you know, you can have real issues, whereas that pretty much any other element of PR, it doesn’t matter. Just you know, just Yeah, exactly. Yeah. The toughest element of digital PR, for example, is understanding the value that you bring in terms of you can measure it through things like Google Analytics, which on the first view is a pretty daunting platform to try and work through. But I will tell you this right, I failed maths GCSE five times, and if an absolute idiot like me can understand Google Analytics. I flippin’ five year old kid. So you know, so? So? No, there is nothing. There is nothing out there. I don’t think that that can’t be learned very quickly. And people are great at that.

Emma Drake
Yeah, I think you’re I think Well, I think a lot are I think a lot of a lot of stills. You know, we see these reports, don’t we from see IPR and other bodies. And you know, about the state of the nation of PR people and what people are focusing on. And there’s a lot of focus on in-house on some of those elements, I think, but I think mostly, I think I’m of the view that most things can be learned. And I mean, I’ve had to learn it. I’m a bit of a generalist. And I have had lots of different roles. It’s a bit like you lot of in-house roles where you pick up bits, don’t you and you have to learn quite a lot on the job. And I think some bits seem more technical, but running your own business as well, you have to learn quite a lot. And I know you’ve got a team, but there would have been a time when he would have done more. And you know, you have to learn everything. So I’ve done more of I would say around Google Analytics and digital PCR probably ran my own business that I have on clients’ businesses, by default, because I’ve had to learn that too. It’s

Andy Barr
because we don’t wait. So we need to learn how to do it ourselves. It did just remind me about running your own business. I found myself fixing the ladies’ toilet this week in the office and just thinking I’ve made it. This is running your own business.

Emma Drake
Chief cook and bottle washer is a term that I use quite a lot. And it’s very, very tricky, isn’t it? So, but you get to see you live the business, don’t you get to see every element of it as well. I think that that’s great fun. Yeah,

Andy Barr
it is really good for no date, no day is ever the same. There’s always drama. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative. But I think that’s the beauty of PR and marketing: We are very lucky to work in this industry. Because it is absolutely bonkers. But it’s also great fun,

Emma Drake
talking about things that are changing, things that have changed, or things that might be big trends that you think are coming. I know you picked up on a few of these in your videos recently. But obviously, post-COVID I still talk about post-COVID on the podcast, even though it feels like a long time ago. Now, like you, it’s been a really tough time for me as well. I mean, only just I would say seeing a post-COVID environment now, just as we’re going into a recession, yay. So it’s, it’s tough. But, things have changed. And I think that I now have become the norm like, you know, online meetings, you know, people talk about going to meetings, they’re online, now you don’t need it, you just talk about meetings. And I’m wondering, in your opinion, what big things of, of just the norm now that people are doing more of, and perhaps for signing up.

Andy Barr
I think the meetings thing is a great point yesterday, I won’t say because it sounds like it’s name-dropping, but it still is on a call with someone in Singapore, Hong Kong, America. And obviously, in Germany and the UK, it was a ridiculously timed call. But you know, that kind of thing, three COVID, I think, or I guess maybe a little bit before COVID, you know, it’s virtually impossible to happen, wasn’t it, but it’s just become the norm. Now people saying, Actually, I’m going to do this call at 11 o’clock at night on a video call because it picks up the global time difference, I think that’s become the norm. I think the industry as a whole over the 17 years that we’ve been doing it, I think, very much a believer that it becomes cyclical to some extent, so. So obviously, I come from an in-house very dry in our traditional background, launched this agency where we were in the right place at the right time, if I’m really honest, online has really taken off, had a business partner that understood the value of that we went all out for online PR on authority link building, you know, made a name for ourselves that, you know, being completely honest, other people came along and did it better than us. And they’ve overtaken us in terms of you know, our size, and you know, how they’ve grown their agencies, and I’ve got nothing but respect for them for that. But then I would say over the last sort of five years, maybe it’s become cyclical in actually that the demand for basic Press Office function has kind of come back to these brands that maybe 10 years ago came to us wanting an absolute bonkers crazy creative idea, has now come to us and said Oh, actually, could you just run our press office for six months? And do all the boring press office stuff? And? And historically, I’ve gone? Well, actually, no, but then you kind of look at it and think, wow, we can do that. It’s very much like, I guess looking at the start of the agency, when I immediately set up, I’d come out of financial services. So I only wanted to do financial services, PR, because I felt that we could offer something different in that area. Very quickly. We did that went okay. And then some of the financial services clients that actually could you try and do this thing in the consumer front of paper, as we used to call it back in the day friend of paper news. And I said, Oh, we’re not sure about that. We had to go and do you know, what, if so much easier than financial services PR went right, we’re doing this now. And so I think yeah, it’s just become cyclical. And now, you know, yeah, there is still the demand for big creative ideas. And these huge what we call because the John Lewis here are content ideas, you know, you’ve got a massive hero piece of content, and then you hang PR off it, but it’s just becoming cyclical. I think every sort of three, four years, something comes back that we, you know, we thought was dead infographics is a good example. You know, those kinds of areas just keep coming back time and time again,

Emma Drake
love an infographic was talking about infographics yesterday and hadn’t realised till you said that they made a comeback. But yeah, I think anything they can cut through the noise at the moment, right, is is

Andy Barr
painful. It’s very painful at the minute I think in the future. Just thinking about your question about future trends, I think. Yeah, and some of the videos that I talked about that are going on at the minute, don’t get don’t go and look for them. That’s terrible. I would you know, Amazon lives probably the biggest thing I think, not necessarily for PR people because it’s an E-commerce tool. So basically, this is where people it’s like QVC, but less permiten does as I said before, so yeah, as your you can go onto your Amazon shopping channel if you’re a retailer, and you can do a live broadcast, and whilst you’re talking through the products that you’re selling, you can buy them live in that, in that moment, or consumers can buy them live in that moment. Now, a few places like Instagram and Tiktok are kind of doing that. But Amazon and on the strength and the brand size that they’ve got will absolutely nailed this. And, this will probably hit the UK, I think in probably late quarter while maybe quarter to 2023. And I think it’s a great opportunity for brands to jump on that. And if you’re one of the early adopters in the UK, you’ll get really good coverage out of it.

Emma Drake
That’s really interesting, because when I started the podcast, Amazon also, we’re going into audio in a big way. Not just for the audiobooks, but from a podcasting point of view. And I don’t think it’s really I’m not saying this won’t, because it’s following a trend existing trend as well. It’s quite similar. But the audio piece, I don’t know what the stats are, but they’re still not up anywhere near, you know, Spotify or Spotify has kind of overtaken Apple actually, in terms of podcasts. If I look at my own feed, a download sorry. They’re on

Andy Barr
Joe Rogan do you think is moved to Spotify? Yeah, there’s

Emma Drake
a couple of big people that went over. And I think there’s also been a bit of a shift away from Apple products. I think there’s been a bit of a kickback, generally, and some better products and better androids. I think people are generally moving away from having everything, you know, in the Apple camp as well. So that might be Yeah,

Andy Barr
I think what I’d say with Amazon is that I know they’ve made a load as it 10,000 job cuts or something recently, they’re very good at killing things that don’t work and innovate very quickly in a very ruthless however, they’re also, you know, maybe a victim of their own success. Because if you look at their, you know, their podcast software, or whatever it is, or platform as an example, it’s very unlikely that’s ever going to get to the financial revenue of Amazon Web Services, which is, you know, the jewel in our crown. Really, I think, as I understand it, they make more from that than they do from the actual e-commerce store. So, I think they set this benchmark and it’d be very difficult for anything else that they offered to come along. Whereas you think Amazon live, you know, I’m presuming they will go down the Shopify platform route in terms of, they will take a percentage of every sale that comes through that platform, you know, this could be phenomenal for them. And I think it’s a great opportunity for influencers as well because brands will want to try and stand out. So if you’ve got these influences, and you’re dragging their audience over from Tik Tok, or, or YouTube, you know, brands are going to be all over that.

Emma Drake
Yeah. It’s funny how things have changed, isn’t it? And so my daughter’s teenager, similar age to one of yours, I think, but Christmas lists, and she sent me it’s got links from tick tock on it. You know, that’s how

Andy Barr
we were talking in a gossip group about you know, the rise of tick tock, I mean, I don’t this is factual yet hopefully, it will have come out by the time this airs, but I have a sneaking suspicion someone like Shopify, I think they will put out a report looking at referral traffic and say that tick tock has had the biggest jump, you know, of any platform in history since Google, I think this Black Friday will have been absolutely driven by Tiktok. So as a search platform, you know, Google should be really worried about tick tock I think it’s going to eventually sort of you know, take over I don’t know maybe I’ll seriously challenge them and that’s good for both as consumers is great for the global regulators, who are constantly challenging Google because of their market dominance will actually maybe it’s not the courts that need to do that, you know, a natural competitor has come along now and Google’s got to up its game it’s got to start sharing more data with us on you know, what’s driving traffic and helping retailers you know, because tick tock will do that and you know, and it will try and help so that we so that it wins more market share.

Emma Drake
It’s definitely a challenger brand across a number of areas, not just a social media platform for sure. Here’s a question: If you weren’t investing everything in the kitchen sink in doing what you’re doing now, what would you be added? Because I know you’ve got a couple of things in other pies but what would you be investing your time and money in Andy?

Andy Barr
I guess I yeah, I’ve got a couple of things that I asked you know, a couple of passion projects so I’ve got one and I guess, if I was ever to sell the agency and which I have no plans to do this the shares had three people this year very seriously. People come along, but I just think it’s because they know they get so cheap because the COVID but yeah, no sound, no plans to sell the agency. But if I was, I would say that alerter.co.uk l er TR is a bit of a passion project to make absolutely no money out of this. But basically, you paste in the URL of something that you’re wanting to buy online, and it will email you when the price is dropped. And believe me, when I say that, no matter what retailer, you use online, they all have very aggressive pricing strategies from, you know, from the highest-end brands like Fortnum, and Mason, down to the horrible fast fashion brands, I won’t name any sheen. But you know, if you, all of them have very aggressive pricing strategies, and, and this tool has really opened my eyes over the last four or five years about how consumers are kind of getting ripped off, you know, around things like Pay Day weekend deals, obviously Black Friday, you know, it’s all nonsense there. You know, those aren’t deals, payday deals aren’t on deals, the actual cheapest time to buy a product is in the middle of the month, because retailers know that it’s harder to get people to spend them. So they drop the prices more the fashion, the fast fashion brands are just crazy. Like when Love Island’s on they will change the product pricing whilst the TV shows on for for a bikini, for example. That looks similar to something that some vague, pouty influences wearing on telly. So, so alerter, I think would be my passion project is slowly growing. But we just don’t have enough time to put into it. But as it is a consumer money-saving brand it, it’s fantastic. And I feel I can say that because as I say, last month, we made one pound 38 from it. In money, that’s okay. We’re massively losing money because our server costs are probably more than that. But you know, it does something good. And after, what, nearly 30 years of working in PR largely for, companies that maybe aren’t always doing some good, especially at the start of my career. It’s nice to do something that helps.

Emma Drake
Yeah. Now I can see that. And I don’t you mean, it’s just sort of reflecting back a bit on that and what we’ve talked about previously, you know, I think that it is important when you’re working. I think for me, it’s important when you’re working in this area of work and PR generally to kachel that you do feel passionate about it because you’re effectively selling stuff, aren’t you? We are all selling something, however, we wrap it up by communicating about something, whether that’s a whatever it is, you know, doesn’t have to be a product does it? It can be an initiative or whatever. And I think it’s really important to feel that you can do that and that you’ve got, you know, love for it. Otherwise, it’s very hard to do, isn’t it? Very hard to do? Yeah, I

Andy Barr
think, you know, we get so wrapped up in it, don’t we? And I think you know, there’s that holy mantra, you know, it’s PR not er, but it’s very difficult. I mean, when people say that, to me, I feel it’s okay to say it to the team, you know, because I don’t want them constantly stressed and thinking, Oh, my God, you’re only as good as your last press release are only as good as your last client campaign. You know, but the reality is, is that’s what I get as a founder, you know, when I get the slightly RC calls from, from a client, you know, saying things haven’t gone to plan, for example, because we’d be naive to pretend that everything goes to plan all the time. I think sometimes it is really hard to just take that step back. And that’s where, you know, I feel like you and I are quite similar in that we’ve got good family base, you know, obviously, you’re a lot more athletic, where you’re swimming, and I am with Bailey watching my kids the sport, but you know, it’s nice to shut the laptop at night. Like my daughter last night was watching. I was watching something on the internet, not ladies of the internet and actual industry thing. And, and she said, she said when you’re gonna finish that and come and sit with us, and I thought, to me, what I was doing was quite important. I was watching an award ceremony that we featured in bachelor, yeah, what am I doing? Go and sit with the kids. And as soon as I shut my laptop and sit with the kids and listen to the absolute nonsense that they speak, it just makes you smile, doesn’t it? And it makes you sort of thing. This is all right. So it is about trying to find something that that’s nice that kind of goes against the stuff that we’re doing in our day-to-day work.

Emma Drake
Yeah, you do have to turn into therapy this Oh, I know. It’s great, isn’t it? It often does but it’s important to have a good work-life balance everyone talks about that but it’s you have to have to do it. I mean, we all know the person that doesn’t do it. Well.

Andy Barr
You know, it’s probably me.

Emma Drake
You always in the gym. I’ve actually we had a call when you’ve been in the gym? That sounds really weird. But we have one call, and you had been to the gym this time?

Andy Barr
Don’t be calling now. No, I think. Yeah, I think this is just so good. You know, I’m not big into talking about mental health. I’m not qualified to talk about it. But I just know that I feel better when I’ve done some sort of activity. And yeah, I think is that that work-life balance, isn’t it? But coming back to actually people when they say, oh, what would you do? If you sold the agency? Can I do I turn my phone off for three months? I, you know, I am the same as all of us in PR, I’m glued, absolutely glued to my phone and post COVID post the global sort of global appeal of UK PR, especially because the pounds are weak at the minute. I’m glued to my phone all day and all night now because, you know, the client campaigns we’ve got going on around the world. And I’m not saying worries me. It’s brilliant. I love it. You know, there’s nothing worse than, you know, quiet, quiet periods. But it is, you know, is hard getting harder, I would say for UK PR industry to switch off.

Emma Drake
It’s getting harder for everyone to switch off for sure. You know, that’s, again, that’s a whole nother podcast episode but you do have to I my little tool is trick is I used to leave my phone in the other room deliberately, when I go and sit with the others that live here. I call them the others are getting us all in one room is quite tricky in his household, I have to say but especially in the last year as I just got older, but yeah, so leaving the phone in other rooms I forget, and I do twitch. It’s weird. I do Twitch on Twitch. And I do go it’s a horrible habit. But that’s my current trick for trying to try to do that. Just talking about things that have changed since post-COVID. For me as well. It’s interesting because I think what you’re saying is some of the work that you get asked to do is changed with press office, you know, run the press office. And it’s not all about big campaigns. I think for me that that’s kind of similar. I was doing a lot more sort of start-and-finish, strategic comms projects. That’s basically how I started and the first few years. And then it became it just became very different. It has become very different. And I’ve found that the work I’m doing now it’s more Retained work, working on a number of different things. And it involves more. So there are a few more trustee clients with me. I’m not an agency in the same way as you are. So there’s just me really in the summer working on bigger things for other people. So it has the nature of the work has changed for sure. I think as well what people want is different. Whether that’s because people haven’t got the headspace to do the big projects. The money, it could be a number of things really couldn’t it but I think a lot of it is clients haven’t got the time to do that real full, forward-looking piece of work often don’t know whether that’s something you’ve experienced?

Andy Barr
Yeah, it’s very knee-jerk. I think I think some, sometimes you can kind of fall down a niche currently. So thinking back to COVID, it was terrific. We lost, you know, we lost 42% of our business in one day. You know, just getting call after call during the first lockdown. We were very heavily exposed to I guess home. What’s the word home sort of garden and furnishings? You know, I had one particular big client there immediately that we had a big travel company, a global travel company who dealt with it horrifically. I’ll just tell you a very quick story about this. So whilst everyone else was ringing, the CMOS are ringing and stuff like that. The global travel company sent us a legal letter invoking force majeure. They claimed that COVID was basically an act of God, and just sort of someone that just rang those and gone Do you know what? We’re absolutely stuffed here? We’ve gone yet, you know, we understand it, but to do that was just incredibly painful. But anyway, so we lost 40% of the business on day one, I’ve locked down and that was brutal. Just thinking, you know, what’s that back then 1415 years worth of work down the drain. And it’s still not all, you know, we’ve still not recovered fully. But what I did find is that we saw all of a sudden, like, towards the end of COVID when it was getting to the booster jab time, or we suddenly had the NHS knock on the door and say this creative campaigns that you do for the, you know, the silly companies, could we have one of those but around boosters and getting people to do that. I just thought Oh, actually, that’s interesting. So we did you know, we came up with these campaign ideas and they rolled them out. And they and they actually, you know, for the first time they said all instead of doing it just for PR can you do bid for PR. But can you also use that approach for advertising when we did that? And then I got a call from Sir something from the NHS panicked saying, I need you to get these ads down because they’ve appeared on Loose Women.

Emma Drake
But you were like, great.

Andy Barr
I was great. I was like, this is fantastic. And it worked. Obviously, boosters went through the roof, and it made it look like a booster, take it, you know, went through the roof and made it look like it was down to our campaign. Absolutely not just so happened that Boris announced something else. But you know, all the arrows went up when our campaign ran. So we claimed it. And that started, you know, that started a really interesting conversation ongoing, working on various projects with the NHS where they’ve gone, actually, and local authorities, where they’ve gone. Yeah, let’s try this approach. So, you know, I would never have thought 17 years ago, well, I’d never thought five years ago, we’d have been, you know, doing such a, you know, I sat down with a team and said, these campaigns that we’re doing, you know, you should take massive pride in these because what you are doing, because it’s not me, I’m just the mouthpiece on the media, you know, these talented people that we’ve got, you know, doing stuff that saves lives, and they need to realise that I’m very keen stress. It’s not me. But you know, and that’s just something where the industry is kind of moved on now, hasn’t it? And, you know, we’re trying to deploy creative campaigns in slightly different ways.

Emma Drake
Yes, that is a great, great story, actually, isn’t it? I mean, the fact that that’s, that you’ve gone from doing one thing to complete everything, and, you know, it shows that those skills are transferable. And it’s a good lesson that we shouldn’t all get stuck in a niche, really, everything’s transferable.

Andy Barr
Well, that comes back to digital PR, doesn’t it? It made a career baby out of it. But that’s a transferable skill from just PR, you know, not even traditional PR. It’s just PR, and that’s why, you know, people maybe listening from a traditional background or an in-house, PR background, you know, shouldn’t be it shouldn’t be nervous about digital PR, the amount of times I talk at conferences about the scrum, people come up and say, oh, you know, we’re thinking about trying it from a local authority of being like, we’re a bit nervous, don’t be nervous, you guys are the best at it. You know, I came, I went the wrong way, usually agency to in-house. So I started in-house. And I know the pain of being on house and I still get mad now when agency people, you know, look down and those in house people. And I say not in-house is the toughest job in the world. Not only did all of that is so hard.

Emma Drake
100%. And so I have a lot of empathy for my clients. Because you know, I can emphasise. So Andy, what if people were going to get started with digital PR, or if they were already doing campaigns, and they’ve already got a really good PR programme, but they want to do more in this area? What are the couple of things or tools they need in place to get started?

Andy Barr
From a tactical tool, journalists’ databases like Response Source, which is our favourite, I’ve tried all of them, responses is by far the best. And then, then things like Buzzsumo, which is a really handy tool for ideation in terms of you can put in a particular niche that you may be working in. So for example, carpentry and it will give you, you know, loads of articles that have been written, and you can then filter them down by the quality of publication. But that also helps you then if you’ve got a story that’s maybe not doing so well say around carpentry, I don’t know why, because I’m terrible at DIY. But then it would show you a wider list of media that you could go after some of the niche media may be around the world. And again, you can filter by domain authority, or the number of shares and retweets and articles out. So those are two really good tactical tools. But I’ll be completely honest, and it’s painful, given what’s happening to the platform minute, but it’s all about Twitter, you know, it won’t die. No matter what, no matter what Elon Musk does. You know, Twitter started as a fantastic tool for PRs and journalists to chat and engage. And at its core, it will always have that, you know, it’s brilliant for breaking news is the best platform for breaking news sounded a bit trumped, then it is the best platform for breaking news. And it’s the best platform for building your community. You know, look at some, you know, the people that are, you know, that I follow and engage with are some of the brightest minds in I just hang on, but they are some of the brightest minds in our sector. And I’ve learned so much from other people that Twitter is no more a platform that you should be on.

Emma Drake
That’s really interesting. And I’m really glad you said that because I also love Twitter and I found it the best for my business as well in terms of it’s great driving traffic for one thing as well, you know, sharing links on there. And when I compare it to other platforms, by far, people engage much more than Twitter, certainly. But it’s been my experience. Well, that’s been really, really useful. Andy, thanks for those tips. I’ve loved having you on today we’ve we’ve covered a whole host of stuff haven’t really, it’s been been a delight to have you on the show today. I’m going to put some links in the show notes for some of the things you mentioned today. So people can pick those up. But I’ll just say, thanks for coming on. And no doubt chat to you again, at some point.

Andy Barr
I can’t thank you enough. I feel like I should probably pay you for some sort of therapy session there. But, I, no massive fan of yours. You’re an absolute world in our industry. So I feel absolutely honoured to spend a bit of time chatting to you. Thank you very much.

Emma Drake
So finally, thank you for listening to this episode of Communication Strategy that Works. Don’t forget to check my show notes for those links that I mentioned. And I’d love it if you would subscribe to my podcast and leave me a review. And also if you think there’s someone that could benefit from listening to this podcast, please share this within your networks. So I’ll just say bye for now, and see you next time.