Today I Messed Up

In my first blog I stated I would cover the ‘state of the profession’ but we’re all meant to learn from each other, right? One of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes, right? We all make mistakes, right? Right. Well, I made a big one.

Take yourself back, Thursday 7th December at 3:53pm – what were you doing? I was working for VO, an independent online heating oil company, a fairly large one with a mailing list in the tens of thousands in Northern Ireland alone. Doing weekly mailshots to NI & UK is part of my remit. So, twice a week I’ll send out an email to hundreds of thousands of people. Best emails you’ll never want to read. Apart from the one I sent on Thursday to our entire NI database.

I’ll give a bit of information, first, into my process when writing these emails, it goes like this:

  • Think of a play on words/horrible pun – Black Ice Friday was a personal favourite
  • Write the email trying my upmost to get people to get onto our website and order some home heating oil
  • Proofread
  • Send it to colleagues & one outsider to make sure my grammar is absolutely on point – people love a grammar error.
  • Wait for feedback from all parties
  • Press send and pray.

Well on this occasion, with snow being forecast, I wrote ‘the snow is falling throughout the country’. Apparently, removing the ‘the’ before the word ‘snow’ was more applicable. You may be able to see where this is going. In jest, I put F-ing, in front of the word ‘snow’, screenshotted it and sent it back asking if I’d fixed it. We use Mailchimp, I dare say there is no person dumb enough to hit send with a curse word still remaining, cause a normal human deletes it immediately after, right? Nope. In my defence, we were busy, the phone rang and I took an order so it slipped to the back of my mind. If you’ve heard a worse excuse than that, let me know. My boss asked if I had hit send on the email because it had gotten busy, I said no and hurriedly sent it.

Yup.

The word?

Still there.

The phones?

Went mental.

Here, see for yourself:

See that feeling you have right now, that one where you’re thinking ‘wow, what an idiot’. Multiply it by 10, then square it, put it in a cannon and shoot it into the sky. That was about half of my stress level. Understandably, I’d just ruined my career, the company and my life. Donald Trump was about to start Tweeting about me in 5 minutes and I had just become the reason for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

I remembered from a lecture on crisis management that it is vital to get out in front, quickly. So, once I stated my mistake an apology email was sent, it was suggested that we go with ‘hacked’ and blamed it on a prankster. This was probably our only mistake. Cue a few emails and phone calls asking if personal information was stolen but alas, it was not. Just little ol’ me, being a very silly boy. But, if in doubt blame the Russians eh?

Disaster.

Or, was it?

It turned out that the response to the email was ridiculously positive, especially on social media. I monitored social media long into the night and I still am as I write this, responding to whoever mentions our name. Decided that the best way to deal with this, was with humour. And it worked, for the second time in my life people found me funny! The first being my birth.

We got 3 rt’s on Twitter for our apology, we’re an oil company, that probably matches our grand total. But I tried to use GIFs so I could use a bit of humour and not type because I no longer trusted my hands. Luckily, everyone loved it. If you go and look on social media you’ll see that I blamed a student on his second last day being a menace, a statement that I wasn’t sure was entirely false.

In terms of followers, the people who retweeted our/my error had a collective 14-15 thousand followers collectively, which is people we wouldn’t have reached. The email itself had a much higher open rate due to the apology email piquing interest. And we got a host of orders in the immediate aftermath. Although the snow may have played a role, but it was a lot more than we had gotten all day.

But I had work the next morning. I usually start at 12, but I aimed to be in for 9 as it wouldn’t be fair for anyone else to take the flak, but due to heavy snowfall and working in Mallusk, I made it in by 10:30. I spent most of the day dealing with complaints via email and phone call, those who were understandably offended by the profanity were largely receptive and accept-ive of the genuine apology after they’d given me a stern talking to, if any of you are somehow reading this, I’m still sorry!!

A lot of people found it hilarious and thought that it was a deliberate marketing ploy, fake it till you make it! It somehow worked an absolute treat and my one take away is that stepping away from the norm and taking risks can pay off. If this was deliberate I’d probably have the biggest head right now and be telling you how great I am. But, no, I still feel like an idiot. A lucky one. Hi potential future employers, I’ve learned, promise!

So here’s my takeaways from this:

  • PROOFREAD BEFORE YOU SEND AND NEVER, EVER SWEAR EVEN IF YOU DON’T INTEND TO SEND IT.
  • Taking risks sometimes works
  • Don’t bury your head in the sand and always tackle the issue head on, especially if it was your fault.

I hope you enjoyed reading this story more than I did living it. Even though this is a mistake that I would much prefer to bury and pretend didn’t happen, I like to own up to my own mistakes no matter the consequences, so go on, call me an idiot, I deserve it!

F**king snow, eh?

Anthony Boyd is a final year student on Bsc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @anthonyboyd16 or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthony-boyd-4a5a63b4/

A Priti Good Day to Bury Bad News

Wednesday, the 8th of November. The scene was set. 25,000 eyes were watching the skies for the plane carrying Priti Patel. Ms Patel was humiliatingly summoned back from Africa for a face-to-face showdown with the assertive and commanding Theresa May. Ms Patel stood accused of lying to Theresa May by having meetings with the Israeli’s behind her back. So, the dynamic May, faced with this embarrassment to her government, did what most leaders with the upper-hand would do and allowed Priti Patel to resign, and remain an MP. However, Ms Patel has now become the second Conservative cabinet minister to be forced out due to scandal this week.

Priti Patel

With the pitchforks being out for Priti Patel, PR practitioners up and down the country were scurrying out round the back with their shovels to find a good place to bury some bad news.

Step forward M&S – they today announced that they would be opening fewer ‘Simply Food’ stores than expected as their food sales have taken a hit. Patrick O’Brien, UK research director at GlobalData Retail, stated: “When you compare that to the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, whose recent like-for-likes have been around 2% plus, that’s a pretty bad performance.”

He had previously described food as ‘a banker’ for M&S and “For it to be losing ground at a time of inflation is really quite damaging,” he said. Let down by a banker, imagine that.

For the group, overall total sales rose by 2.6% to £5.1bn, but pre-tax profit fell by 5.3% to £219.1m.

Our good ol’ friends at the Student Loans Company (SLC) also used this week to bury a bit of bad news as they announced the sacking of chief executive Steve Lamey. They stated that they were terminating his contract after ‘investigations into allegations about aspects of his management and leadership’. This makes Mr Lamey the third boss of the SLC to leave in a row, confidence inspiring eh. Shadow Universities Minister was on standby to give us some words of encouragement however!

“Whilst the full details have yet to become clear, the Student Loans Company appears to be approaching a situation of meltdown.

There needs to be an urgent, substantial inquiry into all aspects of the way they operate with HMRC.

This worrying situation has been compounded by an ongoing stream of accounts over the past few months in the media, and based on numerous individual stories appearing, of the inadequacies of the Student Loans Company to properly administer student loans and specifically repayments.”

And last, but certainly not least. The Government took advantage to bury some bad news. With arguably the most consequential story of the week as it was announced that Britain’s police budgets are to lose £700m by 2020. You hear it all the time, you heard it a lot through the last election and you’ll hear it again in January’s general election, the police are under ‘significant stress’. The police asked for an extra £400m per year and were duly given the opposite and by 2021 the workforce will have reduced by 2%! This is coming from the government that has previously stated they’ve protected police budgets. This is coming along with a 11% rise recorded crime. This is news coming out at the perfect time for it to not be noticed.

Anthony Boyd is a final year student on Bsc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @anthonyboyd16 or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthony-boyd-4a5a63b4/

Here’s How To Get a Job in PR – Reason #4 Will Shock You

  1. Apply for a job in PR
  2. Go To The Interview
  3. Smash The Interview
  4. Pretend to be a man because according to a recent survey they still get paid more for doing the same job. See, number 4 was genuinely shocking, I’ll be covering the CIPR State of the Profession next and go into detail. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Accept Job In PR
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Figure 1 – CIPR State of the Profession 2016

Well, now you’re here you may as well read the rest. You can skip to the TL;DR at the bottom if you don’t want to.

Everyone seems to start these things with a bit of background of themselves, so here it goes. My name’s Anthony, I was on placement at a fantastic company (don’t let them know I said that), I’ve done work experience at leading PR agencies (or so they tell me), I’m a CIPR Student Ambassador annnnnnnd I still don’t know why I’m studying Public Relations. Go figure eh? I hear you say, “obviously you know why you’re studying PR, you picked it didn’t you?” (maybe you didn’t say that, but let’s assume you did). Yeah, I did. Originally, I picked Business Economics with Marketing, then I changed my mind picked Communication, Advertising & Marketing, got accepted, changed my mind and picked PR because it seemed more fun. In hindsight, both CAM and PR are really the same but PR has a bit of politics involved. I was, still am, concerned with having fun and enjoying what I do with making money being a nice benefit too.

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I spent most of my first 2 years studying in PR wondering what I had to do to stand out in the industry. I mean if you can’t make yourself stand out, how are you meant to make a company stand out and how are you meant to make a career out of it, right? I spent hours researching everything from speech-writing to how individual leaders, from Chavez to Obama, speak. I’ve worked with members of the CIPR as a student ambassador and watched how they carry themselves in meetings. And luckily for you I’ve come to a conclusion that I want to share with the world.

You’ll never make yourself stand out if you’re trying too hard. You want to be like the CEO of that successful PR agency? Congrats, so does everyone else. You need to let go of everything and just be yourself. Are you the kind of person that cracks jokes all the time? Keep on doing it. Do you see yourself as a professional businessman/woman? Keep on business-ing. Are you rather boring? Keep on studying CAM. The point is, you need to be yourself.

Buttttt back to me, why don’t I know why I’m studying PR? Easy, cause it’s terrifying; what if I’m no good at social media? What if no one likes my writing style? What if someone finds out that I have an undying hatred for humanity? Who cares!? You’ll find your niche, trust me. I haven’t yet, so I’m not a good example but there’s loads of people on my course who seem like they know what they’re doing so I probably will one day too. If not, maybe PR isn’t for me. That’s the beauty of the world though. PR may not be for me or you, but I’ve learnt that it’s not the end of the road. PR has still done a lot for me, I’ve learnt more about businesses and how to make businesses work than what I would have done studying any business degree! The lessons you’ll learn will stand you in good stead for the rest of your career. So hang in there, you won’t get anywhere worrying about the destination. Take a leap of faith and see where it takes you!

But how do you make yourself stand out? “Gotta create your own brand” lecturers have been telling us it every. Single. Year. But how? Start with LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn, stop reading and go make one. List your skills and get people to endorse you for them. But be honest about it. I put ‘Public Speaking’ in mine, went into work on Monday got pulled to the side by my boss and asked me to speak at the Chartered Institute of Credit Managers (NI) Legal Action Workshop on the role a debt collection agency can play for businesses. Boom, on stage in front of 100 people with a minimum of 10 years’ experience in credit control all listening to these very well-respected lawyers from North and South of the border, and then me. Banter. If you’re going to exaggerate, be prepared to back it up! Then Twitter, people who work in PR love Twitter, which means you can connect with them! And they can see everything you post and like and retweet… make a separate account for ‘work’. And then you could always start a blog! I did and hit 80,000 views in a month, but that’s a story for another time/I’ve 4 blogs to write and not giving everything away in my first.

So, go out, the tools are there, and start creating you!

TL;DR – Start of it rambles on a bit but the message might be to hang in there, don’t try too hard to be like everyone else and you’ll be just fine.

Anthony Boyd is a final year student on Bsc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @anthonyboyd16 or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthony-boyd-4a5a63b4/