Victoria At Work
What would you say makes for a *killer* press release?
When I write a press release, I like to channel my inner tabloid journalist – no matter what the topic or the client, step into the imaginary Daily Mail newsroom in your head when you’re writing the first draft.
I find this approach helps to keep things simple, makes me pull out the most genuinely interesting parts of the story (not what I feel I need to put in there), and to tell a more human story.
Of course making sure that you’re being very targeted with your press release is also vital – try to write it with specific publications or journalists in mind.
How would you advise brands to plan for and mitigate potential areas of crisis? Is there a 101 of crisis communications?
You never know exactly what the next crisis you’ll face is – but you and the people in your business often have a pretty good idea. Put aside time to sit down with people from your company (across a cross section of disciplines and levels) to really think about areas of risk, previous crises and how that might fit into the media agenda.
Practice! You can be surrounded by a million crisis manuals and statement packs, but it’s only in crisis simulations where these holes in crisis response come to light. Also, sometimes it’s not the person you originally thought would lead that ends up commanding the room, so simulations are a great way to test and adapt your crisis processes based on the reality of your team and your business.
What’s the biggest learning you’ve had in your professional life to date? Good or bad.
Everyone wants to make themselves look good – whether that’s your clients to their bosses or journalists to their readers or editors – so trying to position things from the perspective of benefit to the individual is incredibly important.
If you want a journalist to write a story, think about how you could position it as something that might help them impress their editors, or help them move from always writing news to doing more interviews or features (if that’s what they want).
What are the most common mistakes you see people make in their PR efforts?
Over complicating things. Too many companies want to announce every little thing they do, and measure success based on volume of coverage. This doesn’t take account of whether these announcements are relevant to your brand, your values, and the story you’re trying to tell.
I worked with a famous Silicon Valley company that was obsessed with sending out announcements about growth milestones, and then we’d spend hours putting together intricate coverage logs for them, when actually the story we needed to tell about their brand got lost.
What three questions can brands ask to try to better understand the journalists they want to work with?
Find out about the human – are there any causes that this journalist cares about or any particular interest areas they have that you can align with?
Work to their timetable – What are their editors asking them to write about, are they under pressure to churn out a lot of shorter articles or are they working on a longer feature piece?
And finally, ask how you can make life easy for them.
Victoria After Hours
Do you have any health, beauty or wellness rituals that keep you feeling nourished?
Definitely walking. Getting outside, moving my body and giving my eyes a break. I always feel better for going on a walk – whether that’s a quick stroll down by the Thames when I still worked in an office or over lockdown when I could go for long walks in the hills of Bath. I often pair that with a phone call to a good friend (shout out to Sanya!) and it always makes me feel my very best.
What’s your favourite quote to live by?
I try to live by the quote – “I’m going to see what I can get away with.” I have it written at the top of my to do list and it forces me to reach out to people and push myself into action. It’s a motto that doesn’t always work out – but that’s sort of the point.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Taking great leaps of faith is often labelled as irresponsible, until you succeed and then you’re brilliant. I wish I could remember what book I read this in, but the sentiment really stuck with me.
I try to bear this in mind when I make decisions, but also when looking at what other people are doing. We’re too quick to dismiss people who are trying to do something different or start something from nothing (partly because we’re embarrassed that we aren’t doing the same!).
Who or what inspires you?
I tend to feel most inspired by writers and journalists. Partly, I think, because obsessing over journalists is sort of the job of a PR professional, but also because I’m an avid reader, so the idea of actually writing a novel feels like one of the greatest possible achievements.
For the past year, I’ve particularly been loving the New York Times podcast, The Daily. Their investigative journalism is so forensic, yet they also manage to pair it with fantastic and gripping story telling. I’m so invested in it, I even (creepily) made a mug for a friend with the presenter Michael Barbaro’s face on it!
Can you talk to us about any rituals you’ve developed over the years that help you stay on top of your game?
I’m a big believer in a changed location is a changed mind, so colleagues frequently saw me sitting in different parts of the office; and now at home, you’ll find me building standing desks with stools or balancing in various odd locations. In recent weeks, I have found it increasingly hard to concentrate since the initial novelty of working from home has worn off, so moving is the absolute best thing I can do if I’m feeling stuck or am just procrastinating.
I’m also an avid list maker and from a young age my dad taught me to use the ‘blitzkrieg approach’ (probably a very un-PC reference to World War Two military tactics!) when tackling a big to-do list. Do all the small things first to cut your to-do list down and then once you’ve got a clearer mind, move on to the big things.