‘Post Truth Authenticity’ and other 2017 PR challenges…

Adrienne Robins







By Adrienne


A couple of years ago, I remember writing about the importance of transparency in the social media age. In summary, the narrative went something like this:

  • Social media gives everyone a voice
  • If you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, you’ll be called out – publicly
  • Be prepared – recognise and prepare for your skeletons; understand your shortfalls; build up your bank of goodness; do more to engage


And then 2016 happened.


This time last year we didn’t really have a clue what was coming. Or maybe we did have a clue – but we couldn’t acknowledge it or put it into words. At least collectively.


From a B2B PR perspective, I’ve seen so many organisations that got the whole ‘transparency’ thing. Trouble is, politically we either couldn’t or wouldn’t make that leap.


With the benefit of hindsight, if politicians had listened and responded a bit more maybe we’d be in a different place right now.
Instead we’re in a world where ‘post truth’ has happened. And 80s ‘dinkys’* (remember them) have disappointingly turned into ‘jams’**. If you’re of a certain age then it is possible that you could have started out a dinky, turned nimby and ended up in a bit of a jam. Really.
Thing is, post truth blatantly stamps all over transparency. So, do we throw our hands up and forget about it and resolve to change the story to fit the situation as required?
I think not.
So, just how should we be preparing our PR and comms strategies for the year ahead? Here are five areas that you should be concentrating on.


  1. Ensure you’re interesting: just because the world around you feels a little bit odd, that’s no excuse to revert to boring messages. Publishers are crying out for content, but unless it’s thought provoking, new and maybe a little bit controversial it’ll head straight into the bin.
  2. Be authentic: authenticity is the new transparency. Live your messaging and follow it through. Of course, you can surprise people – but do it in a good way. Remember those mission statements and values – go back to them and see if you’re really living the dream.
  3. Unleash your caring side: pick up the CSR baton, but try and make it a bit more human and spontaneous. If you or your team do something good – don’t strategise the comms into the ground. Just get out there and talk about it, in a natural, warm voice.
  4. Connect and collaborate: now, more than ever, it’s apparent that people want to meet ‘real’ people and work together to effect change and new opportunities. Get out from behind your content and listen. Add to the debate. Be brave (see point 1). Shape the outcome.
  5. Look for clarity of outcomes: when it comes to PR, measurement has long been a dirty word. Fact is, for most clients it’s about impact on real business objectives. When putting in place new PR campaigns, focus on deliverables and overarching objectives, not column inches. Get KPIs in place and everyone knows the required direction of travel.


Wishing you all a Happy 2017!


* DINKY: double income no kids yet, an acronym from the have-it-all, shoulder-padded, excessive 80s


** JAM: for those that have spent the last month on the moon, Teresa May’s shorthand for those that are Just About Managing and clearly can’t afford a new pair of leather trousers (although they may be wiser to make a different fashion choice)

Technical PR: the importance of understanding

Hanicke Robins Sanderson technical PR


It’s been a busy few months her at HRS Towers. Which is a good thing. And the technical nature of our projects has got us thinking: can technical PRs ever match the creativity that a PR generalist can bring?


Our answer is a resounding YES.


Technical PR doesn’t = boring. In fact, quite the opposite. It often requires more creativity to unpick the detail and confidently reconfigure it into a new, more engaging shape.


Our first year as a bona fide agency has provided us with some interesting technical PR and event opportunities, working on subjects as diverse as autonomous vehicles, industry 4.0 and robotics and electric powertrain shipping solutions as well as within our recognised comfort zone of recycling, waste management and all things environmental.


New technical PR clients have included The Recycling Association, Vanden Recycling and Visedo. On the events front we’ve completed two in Liverpool and are now planning several more in London for 2017.


Techical PR essentials

How have we helped clients most? Probably through our no-nonsense approach to techical PR which has enabled us to provide the necessary combination of strategic and creative communications advice, on the ground support and technical understanding.


And that last point is key: the technical nature of the landscape that we work in makes this difficult terrain for non-specialist comms advisors. While we don’t claim to know everything about recycling, waste management, automotive or powertrains – we know more than your average bear. And that means we can quickly identify and exploit media and event opportunities, getting technical PR campaigns out of the starting blocks without that typical bedding in period that might othewise be expected.


We also have the nouse to know when to challenge ‘techy traditions’ and when to leave well alone. We’ve seen what’s gone before, know the language, and understand the industry etiquette – and will take all of these into account when preparing technical PR campaigns.


This has most certainly paid dividends for our current clients, creating awareness through print and online media outlets and providing access to key influencers and bubbling industry-specific debates.


Indeed, after just a couple of weeks’ work, one client was already reporting that the ‘word’ was getting out, with their business development teams already enjoying the benefit of  being better known. That’s certainly an objective ticked (although not ticked right off!)


Of course, there are benefits from gaining a new perspective from someone outside of your sector – but in our experience those are outweighed by the advantages of an inbuilt industry shorthand which provides objective meeting shortcuts.


Regardless, creativity is a given.


Author: Adrienne

Adrienne Robins


An Explosion of Colour

Kirsty Hanicke






By Kirsty

Rainbow bagels, Cragels (part croissant and part bagel, and a promise to sell breakfast all day if you are nice are just some of the offerings from The Bagel Store in Brooklyn, NY.
Scott Rossillo, the self proclaimed world’s premier bagel artist is a native Brooklynite an accent to match, complete with earrings, tattoo sleeves, and a genuine spirituality that blends into his work. He is the man behind the rainbow bagel, bagels that have been swirled with vibrant colours that don’t bleed or fade and taste a lot like Fruit Loops and are usually stuffed with Funfetti cream cheese.
Through Rossillo’s commitment, experience, and expertise The Bagel Store has established a relationship with its customers that will last a lifetime!
Unique, no holds barred and tapped into customers’ wildest food dreams, this bakery has customers lining up around the block and is a social phenomenon.
Artists don’t merely exist – they evolve. Well that’s what I think anyway. By walking to the beat of his own drum Rossillo has re-energised a subdued industry and become a revolutionary figure in the market. Just think what a little bit hard world, free thinking and help from your favourite communication provider – Hanicke Robins Sanderson could do for you.
So if your communication strategy isn’t getting the results you want, you don’t have clients lining up at your door, then contact us for a complimentary creative session!

We promise you’ll never look back!


Let’s get out of the bubble and get hands on

Kirsty HanickeBy Kirsty


Would you ask a room full of toddlers to read the top five food blogs for their perspectives on the Government’s guidelines for sugar intake as a way to sway them into eat their veggies? Of course not! But you might sit them down – with a yummy snack, of course – and read to them from the great Seuss tome of Green Eggs and Ham. Hey, if you do a good job, you might even convince a few picky tots to try a new food in the process.
As professional communicators, our job is essentially the same challenge – when we don’t know our audience, it is nearly impossible to be effective storytellers to them. We aren’t communicating at all when we aren’t in touch with how the audience is receiving our messages, or the contexts in which they’re being received. We all spend a lot of time heads-down (reading PR industry pubs, using research tools, and scanning headlines) but there is no substitute for first-hand experience seeing world through our audience’s eyes. How can you fine-tune your own consumer insights?
The answer is simple but often intimidating: Get out of your bubble and get hands-on.
With that in mind, here are my quick tips for getting up close and personal with your audience:

  • Get outside your own demographic by tapping into your empathy. Spend some time reading and watching the same media as your target audience in a non-judgmental way.
  • Check your bias at the door – you are likely approaching this assignment with some false assumptions. Perhaps you think you know what morning talk shows feature, but you haven’t watched one in years. Maybe you assume all consumers feel strongly about a topic, but you haven’t spent the time reading their comment threads in blogs. Maybe you’re getting all your info from one source and just need to dig deeper. Or perhaps, you just don’t relate to a given group so are biased in your overall approach.
  • Get past it and challenge yourself to go beyond the surface, get a full picture, and get yourself aligned in the process. Pay attention to how other brands are messaging – what else is competing for attention? What has the most value in this native context?
  • Ask questions, engage, but also quietly observe, take photos and notes. You’ll see inspiration everywhere and develop your spidey sense for what won’t fly for your audience. (Needless to say, leave your preferences aside for this assignment, too. See your audience’s environment through their eyes and not your own.) So roll your sleeves up and get ready to do some field work.

With a little extra effort, you can better understand your audience from the inside out.


Are you brave enough to say “tails” instead of “heads”?

Flipping a coin when it comes to exhibitions

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul.


If you flip a coin, you might think you have a 50/50 chance right? Well you might be wrong.


If you attend an exhibition, then you will get leads right? Well you might be wrong on that too.


Most of us will typically say “heads” when asked to flip a coin, and actually, our chances might be slightly better by doing so. Research in 2012 found that things like the way people toss a coin and the weight of the coin, often leads to 51% of tosses landing on heads and 49% on tails.


So that slight advantage exists with heads even if we did not know it to begin with and just went along with what we have always done.


However, the research also found that if you use an American 1 cent coin (also known as a penny), the weighting on the heads side featuring Abraham Lincoln is such that tails is more likely to appear 80% of the time.


Flipping a coin when it comes to exhibitionsWhat appears to have been a 50/50 decision for most people, has turned into an 80/20 decision in favour of tails.


It just shows that even when we are making a simple decision, we need to ensure we have the evidence at hand to make sure we can make the right decision for our business.


I’d recommend making the same evaluation when it comes to your communications strategy. So rather than making a 50/50 punt, can you toss the coin so that it is more like tails on an American penny and therefore more in your favour?


For example, are you sure you are employing the right blend of experience and creativity to raise the profile of your business through PR and marketing?


Would you be better off arranging your own bespoke tightly organised event rather than spending a fortune on an exhibition where you don’t know whether the right people and leads will go to your stand?


Think about it, attending an exhibition means the odds are not in your favour. There is risk that your stand is in the wrong place at the end of a dead end, or that the person with the £1 million contract in their pocket is networking with your competitor because you were talking to a retired bloke who wanted to reminisce. It is also in the interests of the exhibition organiser to get more stands, and that means it dilutes the amount of potential visitors per stand.


Don’t get me wrong, some exhibitions are great, but having been to many, I also know the ones where the tumbleweed is blowing down the aisles and exhibitors look annoyed and frustrated with the time and money they have spent. I visited two of them myself in just November last year.


At a guess, I would say the odds of an exhibition working for you would be less than 50% – maybe even less than 25%.


But what if there was the American penny option, where you knew that if you shout “tails” the odds are massively in your favour?


There is that option, organise your own event with our expertise, and we will ensure that every person networks with you is a potential lead.


We will ensure those leads get quality time with you, so you can show off your business.


So when you are deciding whether to do that exhibition again, maybe it might be better to be brave and shout “tails” and do something where the odds are more in your favour.


Remember, remember the 5th of November

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul


I was in California, recently turned 21, and able (legally at least) to have a drink again.


There was a bar in the place I lived, and I was sitting outside on 5 November, enjoying the warm sunshine and a pint with an American mate Chris.


He was a lovely fella, very chatty, quirky, but he could also be a bit crazy.


We got joined by some of the other Brits who were living there too, and we also started to remember, remember, the 5th of November, and we were all thinking of being back home, cold, probably wet and drinking mulled wine.


While we were glad to be in the sunshine, it was one of those days that made us all think of back home.


fireworks“I’ve got some fireworks,” said Chris. “I bought them in Mexico, let’s go and set them off tonight so you guys can celebrate the failed terrorist attempt.”


Now, we should have seen the word Mexico in there as a warning sign, but we weren’t thinking, wrapped up in thoughts of home.


That night, we met up and headed off into the Berkeley Hills to a bit of open ground, and Chris brought his fireworks with him and started lighting them.


They weren’t great fireworks, but we delighted in imagining ourselves back home in Britain.


Suddenly, we saw flashing lights and heard sirens.


“Run!” shouted Chris.


Confused we started running with the police cars close to arriving. We’d had warning so we all got away safely.


Chris hadn’t told us that fireworks were illegal in California due to the risk of forest fires, which is why he had smuggled them in from Mexico.


For us Brits, we could have been arrested, and getting arrested meant being deported, which could have meant our degree studies being messed up.


Fortunately, no harm was done either to us or the California landscape.


Today is 20 years since all that happened, and every 5 November I always think of that day and have a little chuckle. It was fun, it was a little bit naughty, a bit dangerous, and something I will always remember.


In fact, it is the only Bonfire Night I do remember.


Now, I’m not suggesting doing something illegal, but doing something memorable and different is good.


We pride ourselves in coming up with professional, but creative ideas in everything we do. Our business is about doing things that are memorable – and legal!


The people on Grand Designs who ignore their architect

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul


I’ve been doing some volunteering work, local to where I live. I won’t say what it is, as that wouldn’t be fair.


However, there was a huge debate a little while ago within this organisation about how we communicate to the wider public about what we are trying to do.


There was recognition that I have the communications experience, and so I put together a strategy.


This strategy outlined a face-to-face approach explaining to the public what we do, a digital approach that used a website and social media to enhance that communication, and finally (and with least priority) an approach of using leaflets and the press.


But some of the more conservative members of the group put all their thoughts and focus onto producing a leaflet as that is what they have always done.


A leaflet is fine in the right circumstances, but in these circumstances, it came at great cost to the organisation (printing etc), and its benefit wasn’t necessarily clear.


The problem is that the majority of the group I am working with are set in their ways. They are used to sending out leaflets, and even if it isn’t working, they still feel they should do it.


Although there are members of the group who recognised my communications expertise was valuable, those conservative ones were holding back the overall aims of the organisation by not adapting to the reality of now.


Adrienne and I have written about the 1980s and the 1990s in our blogs, and we shouldn’t return to those days in terms of communications. We have to build on those days, but also adapt to the realities of 2015.

Kevin McCloud Grand Designs

Working with the volunteering group reminded me a bit of those people you see on Grand Designs who have a vision for their dream house, they employ an architect who draws up the plans and they love the house they are going to get.


But as the build progresses, they keep interfering and changing things, even though the architect looks on aghast or even walks away. Mistakes and misfits start to get introduced, and you can tell the building won’t be as good as was originally planned. Windows are slightly misaligned, or awkwardly shaped walls are introduced.


By the end, Kevin McCloud will usually say something along the lines of “it is a good house, but architects design great houses”.


With communications, if you employ that expertise, you have to know your objective, develop the strategy for communicating it, then implement that strategy keeping in mind the objective.


If you want great communications support, you also have to know why you want it and then trust it.


Eventually, I developed a strategy to communicate to these conservative volunteers. At the meeting, I reiterated the strategy, explained why we shouldn’t focus too much on the leaflet, but should look at our overall objective…and I eventually got my way.


Our communications campaign is already delivering results.


Sometimes it’s good to judge

Recycling frog

Adrienne yellow

By Adrienne

Those of you who already know us here at Hanicke Robins Sanderson will know that we have strong links with the waste management and recycling sector. Now, there’s a bit of an urban myth that goes something like this:

once you get involved in recycling, you’re in it for life’.

Which certainly seems to be my story.


My recycling journey started when I was commissioned to write for MRW, many moons ago. I then hopped back PR-side, working in-house for the now (much missed) Aylesford Newsprint. A couple of agencies, and many recycling, circular, energy, renewables, etc, etc clients later – here I am working with Paul and Kirsty, setting up our exciting new events-focused agency.


Hanicke Robins Sanderson is not sector-specific. We’re B2B specific. And we’re specifically creative. But we’re not exclusive to recycling – or any other sector as it happens. We like to share our comms skills far and wide and shake things up a bit.


Recycling plastic

But recycling is always there. I hope it always will be.


And so you can see why I was happy to once again be invited to be a judge for the 2016 National Recycling Awards, which I of course accepted immediately. Last year’s judging interview sessions were really impressive, and I’m looking forward to more of the same next May.


So start writing your entries, becasue I’m sharpening my judging pen in readiness.


Find out more here: https://nra.mrw.co.uk/


Why your business shouldn’t be scared at Hallowe’en

Paul yellowBy Paul

As a kid, I remember Hallowe’en involving a washing up bowl filled with water, half a dozen apples and a turnip.


Sometimes it also involved your mum covering you in a bin bag, streaks of toilet roll, and lipstick smeared down your face and then you would be sent into the world to beg for sweets at the home of strangers – after they told you every other day not to take sweets from strangers.


The turnip was used like a pumpkin is now – you carved it into a scary face (which took ages as turnips are quite hard) and put a candle in it.


And the apples, you put them into the water, hurled your face into it and tried to catch an apple in your mouth, while trying to stay alive. I’ve never thought about why you did this, until I looked it up.



Apple-bobbing, or duck-apple as it is known in the north, came about as a way to predict which young person would be next to marry. The first person who caught an apple would be next, and if it was a girl, if she put it under her pillow then she would dream of her future husband.


Not sure it worked, but when you think about it, getting 7- and 8-year olds to predict who will be next to marry is pretty weird!


Anyway, yesterday I was in Liverpool and there was an absolutely huge queue outside a fancy dress shop of people waiting to collect costumes.


And if you go into any supermarket right now, Hallowe’en themed produce is everywhere from sweets, cakes and crisps to cheese and onion pasties (well maybe not the last one).


But there is a lesson here. Hallowe’en never used to be a big deal until it gradually became one, as confectionary manufacturers in particular saw an opportunity to sell more stuff prior to the Christmas run-up. Collectively, they reinforced the message that we should all be celebrating Hallowe’en more, and we all are – hence the queues outside the fancy dress shop.


Is your business taking advantage of all of the opportunities that come its way like those that have captured Hallowe’en? And are you then reinforcing the message about those opportunities?


At Hanicke Robins Sanderson, we can help you develop that strategic message, the one that tells potential and existing customers why they are benefitting from your business and then reinforcing the communications to ensure they remember.


And if you want to arrange a Hallowe’en themed corporate event for 2016, we can do that too!


Don’t be scared, and get in touch with us.


Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne.


Paul’s 90s blog got me thinking. Not about the 90s, but about the 80s.


Yes, Paul, the 90s was the decade of the internet and the mobile. But the 80s was when it all started to change. In the 80s we used typewriters and printed things off in triplicate. As journalists, we spent days at the typographers – and then more days at the printers. We used pica em rules – anyone else remember them?


And then, all of a sudden we got word processors. They weren’t linked to anything (sometimes not even the office printer). They had a nasty green screen and a floppy disk drive. And they were a bit temperamental.


The first time I used a word processor (outside of college) was when I switched from journalism to PR. Overnight I changed from copy editor to media relations expert, and shifted up a technological gear. All good – expect that very first day the mean green machine ate my words leaving me with nothing to show but a blank screen. That’s progress for you.

1980s office scene
This is how people worked in the 1980s apparently


Those golden, heady days of 80s PR agencies are now much lampooned. Agencies have changed; there’s less eating and drinking (much, much less) and more creativity and professionalism. Digital has indeed been part of this change, and continues to be so.


But there’s one thing that digital didn’t improve – and that was in person communication. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wind the clock back and be without email, internet, apps and social media. But I also believe that we’re more creative and productive when we pick up a phone rather than hide behind email. Or spend time physically (or virtually) in the same room focusing on the same goal.


For me, the 90s is when we started to ignore people in favour of technology. Only now, two decades later, are we learning to combine both skills and beginning to re-prioritise in person relationship building. Because, all things considered, when you meet someone you build a deeper connection and a more enduring memory that is more likely to result in action.


And the new breed of Millennial Marketeers know this. So expect to get more invites. Enjoy!