On Record with Cheryl, PR Associate Director
Joining WMG in November 2019, Cheryl has brought 11 years of PR experience to our already brilliant Digital PR team. From an office move to Leeds, to creating new services for 2020 and building upon the team’s roles, she has certainly hit the ground running! We got to know Cheryl a little more and found out what it’s like to be part of the Digital PR team.
What is your role?
I’m PR Associate Director, heading up the Digital PR team. My role is essentially to be a senior guide for the team, supporting them in their day to day as well as driving the growth and development of the department as a whole.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
I asked some friends, and after saying a few very rude things they settled on, ‘a good egg’.
Tell us an interesting fact about you…
It’s more of a party trick. I used to work in a champagne and cocktail bar in Leeds and I was sent on a trip to Epernay, which is in the Champagne region of France. While I was there, they taught me how to sabrage which is basically slicing the top off a bottle of champagne with a sword!
What is your favourite piece of PR?
Oh, there are so many! But I did see something cool a couple of months ago from Nurofen where they tested pain response and whether swearing helps alleviate the pain. I liked it because for one, it made me laugh but also because Nurofen is a pharmaceutical brand, you’d expect their PR to be quite formal. It was just really fun and memorable!
How would you say your role differs to the previous roles you’ve worked in?
My previous role was Group Account Director at another company. I was a lot more hands off with clients towards the end as I had four managers in my team plus Account Executives, so I became more focused on strategy. Although I still do that here, I also do more of the implementation such as writing press releases and doing promotion which I really enjoy. I think it’s important to keep practicing what you preach!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I know it’s a cliché, but every day is different. It’s usually split down into three things: responding to new business enquiries (talking through opportunities, brainstorming ideas with the team, pulling together decks, attending pitches), working on client projects (jumping on a client call, helping with a strategy, writing press releases or the odd bit of promotion), and also general team leadership (delivering training, creating and reviewing job specs, and developing services).
Since joining four months ago, I’ve spent quite a bit of time building upon and improving our processes including new reporting templates, production templates, auditing templates and looking at new services and tactics that we can implement. In recent years I’ve seen clients seeking more and more variety from their PR agency and I think that, where feasible, we should look to fulfil these requests by offering a greater mix of tactics that suit different objectives. You don’t want to be a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’, so we are still being particular about our offering. Everything is very digitally focused for example but being able to do more is already working in our favour. I’m fortunate to have worked at agencies that offered such a variety of services, so I can use this experience to cherry pick those I think are the best fit for our team at WMG.
Following an increase in client demand, we’re looking to expand our team across this year, so I’ve also been doing quite a bit with recruitment too.
That’s exciting! Where do you see these new additions fitting into the team?
We are always looking for new talent. In particular, junior and executive levels who have ideally done a work placement or two and have a reasonable idea of what PR is. Essentially, someone with time management, creativity, attention to detail and a natural ability to build a rapport fits the bill well in these kind of roles! This also gives the current team plenty of opportunity to continue growing and progressing in their career too – it’s a very exciting time for us!
What advice would you give someone starting in Digital PR?
Read the news! It’s so important to know what’s happening in the world on a day to day basis and it’s a good way of knowing what the press like to hear by reading what’s being covered regularly.
The PR team has recently relocated to our Leeds office. What impact has this had on the department?
Moving the team to our Leeds office has been a big change but everyone really loves it! There is a big PR community in Leeds and also a growing media presence, which is a massive benefit for us and our clients. But other than this, the move hasn’t impacted our methods of working with the other departments based across our other offices.
We’re a sociable team, everyone’s such good fun, and we love it when our Manchester based PR Account Manager, Rosa, joins us too. Even if she’s not in the Leeds office, every time we have a brainstorm, we call her in! We also like being in this office with our connected agencies, Pinpoint and Statement. They’re such a friendly bunch and we make an effort to join socials such as Thirsty Thursdays – after all, we’re spoilt for choice being in the centre of Leeds!
What do you say is the value that you and your team offer clients?
Creativity. I think it’s a massively undervalued skill. It’s easy to come up with poor ideas pretty quickly but good ideas are gold and they take more experience and time to develop. As a creative team, this is where we can add value. Plus, measurable results. Traditional PR typically relies on things like reach and AVE, but these are just metrics and don’t mean much anymore. But as we’re part of a wider search agency which encompasses SEO, Content, Paid Media and Outreach too, we’ve essentially become a tactic to support the overall objective and it’s really clear to see the impact we’re having – the links we earn aren’t just measured by a volume number but also on their impact on visibility.
As a very creative team, how do you guys come up with new ideas?
We run regular creative sessions and usually, whoever’s leading the meeting will send an email a few days in advance with a bit more information on what we’re hoping to get out of the session. This includes a bit of background on the client, what their objectives are and a brief on where they want these ideas to go (considering things such as the client’s link gap versus competitors). The team often spend time in advance preparing for the session, reading through notes to generate ideas. Then we discuss the ideas together, bouncing ideas off each other, before going away, feasibility checking them and writing them up as concepts. Taking this approach has helped us come up with some of our most creative campaigns to date.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Every day is different. It’s busy and I like to be busy. And, we have a laugh too!
What have you found challenging?
A general challenge we often face in Digital PR is helping people understand our recommendations. We give recommendations because we genuinely believe they will work based on our experience, but also because that’s what data and insight is telling us is effective right now.
It’s important to not forget that things are constantly changing.
In SEO, everyone knows when Google updates its algorithm, things will change. But yet with PR, even though the press is constantly changing, and the media landscape is different week to week, there isn’t always the same level of understanding. What we did last year won’t necessarily work now so we have to try different things. We have to be brave. You can’t just rely on the same old tactics all the time, you have to move with the times.
What advice would you give to a client?
Trust us. Brands have naturally become very protective of their presence and how they are perceived. But trust in the experts to help you use Digital PR in the right way. The clients that give us the most freedom usually see the best results.