How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
We use technology the most in terms of feedback on reach to find out what our work has achieved with data related to click rates, online reach, social media etc. It has changed our internal workings a lot, and we utilise many tools that we can use to make our work more sufficient and efficient.
However, the creativity element is something I think technology can’t be used for. It facilitates processes, but ideas are still generated through a human and personal approach. The surroundings of our work have changed a lot. There are plenty of ways of doing digital press kits, coverage books and reporting to our clients around what we’ve achieved through clicks and figures on reach. We use Slack for internal communication, plus Skype and lots of other platforms to modernise our work.
In press terms, the personal contact to journalists and to the industry is still important and can’t be replaced by technology. A lot of our work is still on the phone, pitching individually to people and communicating with our clients in person. That human contact helps to develop trust, generate ideas and is still incredibly valuable.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives, writers and possibly even the artists you're working with?
Collaboration is the foundation of a good communications agency. We’re somewhat of an interface between the artist and their realisation and what the public sees of it. We collaborate with the artist or the project initiator but also with the people feeding into the project with visuals, technology or a label. We also collaborate with the press, editors, online editors and curators. I think our job thrives on the element of having good relationships and being natural collaborators.
What it means for me in terms of our approach is to be very open and transparent. My preferred ways of engaging with other creatives are to meet in person through, for example, coincidental meetings at events and talking to them about projects and ideas, so we do go to a lot of industry events to meet people and teams behind projects or artists.
Can you take me through your process on the basis of a campaign that's particularly dear to you, please? What did you start with, what were some of the most important aspects and how did you combine the different elements into a coherent whole?
One of the campaigns I enjoyed the most was probably the Max Richter Recomposed project that we initiated and saw through. One of the reasons it was so much fun was because Max Richter approached us directly, he was very enthusiastic about the project and thought someone with a more creative approach and the time and energy could do very well in bringing it to a broader audience. What I liked about Max is that he gave us almost a carte blanche to do what we wanted to do, so we didn’t just do a publicity campaign but also a creative marketing campaign.
First, we started with a creative development session on that campaign and created mindmaps, mood and visual boards and had multiple creative thinking sessions. We discussed what we wanted the campaign to look like, starting with what the four seasons and recomposed means and coming up with associations around that and what we could do with those. That took a lot of time and when we got the sign off from Max and his team we transformed it into an actual campaign.
We came up with a physical concept in store at Heathrow airport. We thread in lots of different digital elements including Apple and branding elements. In that sense, it was a campaign where we particularly enjoyed the music and working with the artist. Max was a great collaborator and the outreach of it was extensive.
We achieved a lot, we came up with an online competition, worked with Instagram and Twitter, but we also did a physical event where we collaborated with Regent Street Store Association where a lot of brands curated their own four seasons recomposed and we spread that into a whole day and made an event around it. It was a wholesome campaign and I enjoyed it the most because I felt it all came together. It was a great success.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
My daily routine is totally dependent on whether it’s a travel day or a home day. I live in rural Devon and I have two children, so when I am at home my schedule is very much fixed around them.
I get up around 6am then do breakfast with the children around 6.30am. We leave for school and after the drop-off around 9am I start working and, depending on the length of their school days, I stay close to the school in a café nearby. Then we pick them up, spend quality time with them and after bedtime around 7pm, I pick up work again. If I am travelling, I obviously don’t have the element of childcare, so I am a bit more flexible. But I do have a lot more meetings and I am on airplanes and trains a lot and no day is the same.
In an ideal day, I fit in a rowing work-out. I’ve become quite obsessed about rowing and try to do that 2-3 times a week. Also, music is obviously important in my everyday life. I listen to it a lot in the car and at home, plus I listen to BBC Radio 4 in the morning to get my news fix. I enjoy quite a few Podcasts from Germany and the UK. Lastly, I would like to practise my own music that’s probably where my own discipline is missing. I don’t just listen to classical music but also to pop and other genres too. At the moment, I enjoy listening to Lizzo a lot! (laughs)
The results of a campaign are not always easy to measure. How do you define success for your work?
That really depends on the project that we are working on. Some people come with a very clear vision on what they would define as success. That often makes it easier for us, because they say “I want an interview in this publication” or “I want an increase in audience numbers” or ‘I want a concert review’ and that can be quite easy to follow or hard depending on what the circumstances are.
Besides that, we have gotten very much into the habit of making sure we understand how much a certain article means to an artist and why. Some artists come to us wanting to be signed, others want their project to tour internationally. If it’s an embassy, foundation work or an institution, they also want a higher profile. What success is for a PR campaign can be quite varied. It’s the job of a good PR manager to figure out what this success is as part of an individual campaign and how to achieve that. Maybe being added to a Spotify Playlist could mean more for their profile than an article in an established publication. And we don’t always agree with the client which is then an important discussion point on a project.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I don’t struggle with being creative and it comes naturally to me, but I can honestly say that I do struggle with anything that takes too long and I am easily distracted. When I know I have to be creative, I can sit down and do it, but I have to discipline myself at times because I do have quite a short attention span. As soon as I get bored or distracted and I know there are other things I need to do too, I easily sway away from my task at hand. My ideal state of mind is a mixture of enough sleep, enough rest and a bit of a workout but I feel I can draw on creativity most of the time.
I generally just get on with things. I usually don’t have time to think about distractions or worry about tasks not being done yet, I just do them.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art?
I think it was Gustavo Dudamel who said “music is a fundamental human right” and I believe music should be part of everyone’s life, not necessarily related to the social-political role of it. Music can be quite an emotional and impulsive or relatable or non-relatable element and I don’t think there has to be a social-political role with it. Music can be engaging even if you disagree with it or if you dislike it, but I do always admire artists or projects who take on an extra political role. In principle, I admire artists who have a strong message and who bring that into their projects but I don’t think art has to have that necessarily.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music PR still intact. Do you have a vision of your job, an idea of what it could be beyond its current form?
Yes, I do think it is interesting that we still are here with music PR, though I do think it has been disrupted and changed a lot. The traditional publicists have become a rare breed and their world is narrowing by the second.
We’ve had to evolve and we’ve joyfully adapted to new elements and possibilities in the job and in the industry. In terms of my vision for the role, I think there will always be those who have a fantastic vision for their own projects, but aren’t necessarily equipped to communicate it. Therefore, I think it will always require someone to facilitate this communication and who has the experience and knowledge of the market and the industry. What PR looks like in the future will change a lot especially through technological advances but it won’t die die out in that sense, it will just adapt and amend, as we have continued to do as an agency.