Six things I’ve learnt in my first six months in PR

Ned Eckersley joined City Road Comms in September 2023, marking his first move into the world of PR and comms.

Reflecting on his first six months with the agency, Ned shares six key lessons he learnt to date.

1. Understanding your audience

Whether targeting consumers, business leaders or investors, you must ensure the message is tailored directly to the desired audience. That means delving beyond those simple groupings – consumers is an incredibly diverse audience group – and zoning in on a particular profile of person or organisation.

Creating compelling campaigns that showcase the client as an industry leader can only be achieved by clearly understanding the needs and interests of the intended readers. So, start with the audience and work backwards from there.

2. Relationship building

Despite the majority of my work taking place behind a screen, the ability to create meaningful relationships with different stakeholders is clearly a valuable skill. Showing the client that you are as invested in their journey as they are builds a sense of trust and confidence; demonstrating to journalists that your reliable, responsive and have done your homework ensures you get their attention; being open with colleagues about when you need support, or when you are on hand to support them, creates a far better team environment.

3. Clear and interesting copy

It’s all good to have ideas, but they count for very little if you can’t bring that idea to life. And that typically means creating great copy.

The ability to communicate with journalists and, ultimately, the reader in a clear, concise and interesting manner can separate you from the crowd. On top of this, your pitch must be attention-grabbing.  The competition for journalists’ attention and, ultimately, media coverage is fierce; I can only imagine the state of a journalist’s inbox, so the subject line and summary of your pitch play a vital role in securing coverage.

4. Adaptability

Reactive PR is where you learn about your ability to create concise and knowledgeable copy under pressure. A story breaks and you might have ten minutes to write 200 words to analyse it.

You need to be on top of the news, find a compelling hook and produce high-level copy in a short space of time. For me, when it all comes together, and the coverage comes rolling in, it’s the most rewarding element of PR.

5. Thinking creatively

When coming up with ideas for a new PR campaign, especially when using quantitative research, it’s easy to follow the crowd – you look for trending topics and, in doing so, can get caught up by discussing the same topics as everyone else.

But this is dangerous. You can convince yourself that a PR campaign is “on trend”, but it’s a very fine line between that and simply doing what everyone is doing.

At City Road Comms, we commission research for clients to explore pertinent trends and issues. Finding an innovative angle on a topical industry issue is essential in order to get great data but also give you an edge when trying to place your research in the media.

Crucially, to get that unique angle, I’ve learnt how important it is to work as a team and provide constructive criticism. You can’t shy away from telling a colleague that an idea is too bland or has been done before – scrutinising each other’s work is key if as an agency we are to create campaigns that make our clients stand out.

6. Enjoy the outcome

The most rewarding part of the job is receiving feedback from clients who are over the moon with the results and tell you what an impact media coverage has had on their bottom line.

Amidst the day-to-day work, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on positive feedback and celebrate successful campaigns as a team.

Ned Eckersley

Communications Executive

About the author

Joining City Road Communications as a Communications Executive in September 2023, Ned brings with him a team-focused mentality and a passion for current affairs. His strengths lie in the written word, and he will start by working with clients in the Fintech and property sectors. Ned is a former professional athlete who represented Leicestershire and Durham.


News & Updates

Newsjacking 101: A beginner’s guide to reactive PR

In the fast-paced world of PR and comms, building your brand, staying relevant and engaging with your audience requires getting your messaging out there consistently and prominently.

There are tons of great tactics to get your brand in the media like commissioning your own research, submitting thought leadership articles, and sharing your own company announcements (when it is genuinely newsworthy!). But these activities all take time to execute and see the rewards.

For quick, high-profile, and impactful coverage, one tactic reigns supreme. Enter reactive PR, often referred to as ‘newsjacking’, a strategic approach to media relations that leverages current affairs and breaking news to amplify your brand’s messaging.

What is newsjacking?

Newsjacking in PR is the practice of issuing comments on breaking news stories.

It can be a great way to secure coverage for your business. For one, journalists are already writing about these events, and often looking for experts to offer their insights into what their stories mean for a particular audience. It is also an ideal way of aligning your brand with particular issues, whether that is the state of the economy, government policy or environmental crises.

However, while it’s undoubtedly effective, getting strong results with reactive PR is no cakewalk. Competition is tough, and only the most insightful, timely comments make the cut when journalists write up their articles.

For beginners just dipping their toes into the waters of reactive commentary, here are a few tips to improve your chances of success…

  1. Select the right opportunities

Firstly, not every news story will be the right fit for newsjacking. Forcing connections between your brand and major news stories can feel disingenuous, and hammering a square peg into a round hole is something both journalists and your audience will see right through.

So, it’s important to choose events that are relevant and authentic to your brand or message and where your commentary can genuinely add value. Looking for stories that are well aligned with your brand’s values and expertise, therefore, is a must.

With that in mind, be aware of the sensitivity of certain topics when considering whether to weigh into the conversation. After all, showing integrity is as important to brand reputation as it is to our personal values, and that means respecting the gravity of sensitive events and avoiding exploiting them for promotional purposes.

  • Language is power

Giving a creative flair to your comments is key, as your brand’s voice and tone will need to be distinct and powerful to get a journalist’s attention. As noted, journalists will receive dozens – hundreds, perhaps – of comments from brands offering their two pence when a major story breaks; a bland quote from your CEO will quickly be discarded in favour of a competitor who has a clear point to make and makes it well.

Punchy, impactful language goes a long way in crafting a memorable comment that drives home your brand’s message – so long as the overall tone remains consistent with the position of your brand. As an example, when data comes out showing that food prices are still rising, rather than saying “this is bad news for consumers”, consider something like “this is yet another gut punch for shoppers everywhere”.

  • Say something important

If you say what everyone else is saying – or worse, speak for the sake of speaking – few will listen.

Think about what you have to say that offers a unique perspective or insight into the situation and strive to add real value to your audience through your commentary. This can mean offering expert analysis into the issue, practical advice, or innovative solutions related to the news event.

To ensure a brand has a clear angle to approach a news story from, it’s important that a comms team (or agency) has a strategy in place. You must know ahead of time where you – as an organisation and the people within it – stand on important issues. That way, when a major story breaks, you already know what message you want to push out; you just need to craft it to the specifics of that particular event.

  • Timing is key

The best-crafted, most insightful comment ever written will still fail to produce results if the timing isn’t right.

Following a major news event, journalists will scramble to cover the story, and your commentary needs to be on hand to make the cut.

So, while you want to ensure you’ve got all the facts straight before weighing in ensure your brand’s insight is thoughtful and well-supported, being quick off the mark is crucial.

At CRC, we will often write reactive PR comments ahead of time – for instance, when we know the Bank of England is meeting to vote on interest rates but it is unclear what the outcome will be, we will create one comment for each outcome (rise, fall, hold), ensuring we can distribute our clients’ comments the minute the Bank announces its decision.

It might be called reactive PR, but proactivity and timing is everything.

  • Monitor and adapt

With that, keeping your finger on the pulse at all times is a must if you want to seize the best reactive opportunities.

Continuously monitoring news trends in your industry and keeping an eye on important upcoming events will help you build a strong long-term newsjacking strategy and establish your brand as a go-to authority in your sector. Top tip: create a calendar of upcoming events (government announcements, awareness days, data and report publications) so you are ready to jump on the stories that are likely to dominate any given day or week.

It’s time to get started

Ultimately, great newsjacking and reactive commentary comes down to this: say something punchy, insightful, and valuable, and say it quick – so, keep your eyes peeled for that next big opportunity.

Happy newsjacking!

Georgina McBride

Communications Executive

About the author

Georgina joined the agency as a Communications Executive in September 2022, with clients spanning property, fintech and technology. Prior to this, she graduated with a degree in French at the University of Edinburgh, where she developed an interest in technology and communications while interning at a Parisian startup during her year abroad.


News & Updates

Meet the City Road Comms team: Scott Rimell

Scott Rimell joined City Road Comms (CRC) in late 2021, having taken an interesting path after leaving school. Time spent teaching English in China and Indonesia was followed by an English Language and Linguistics degree at Sheffield University, which was followed by a post-grad course in Politics and Media.

Coming on board as a communications executive, Scott was largely new to the world of PR and comms when he joined CRC. But in the two-and-a-half years since, he’s progressed seamlessly, particularly in establishing himself in the personal finance space – Scott works across several of CRC’s consumer-facing financial services clients, including an independent financial adviser and one of the UK’s leading digital banks.

In this blog, Scott sheds a little more light on his journey into PR and comms as well as reflecting on his time at CRC so far.

What attracted you to work in PR and communications?

Coming out of university, I found myself faced with the common post-graduate conundrum of, “Uhm what now?”. While confident that I wanted to put the research and writing skills that I’d picked up through my English Language and Linguistics degree to good use, I wasn’t exactly sure where to jump in. After a little digging into the world of PR and comms, I soon realised that this was an area where I could not only flex those skills but also but also satisfy my need to keep up with what’s going on around the world.

In the end, the mix of strategising, working within different sectors, problem-solving, and the occasional high-pressure situation felt like the right fit for my style of working

What do you enjoy about working at City Road Comms?

I would have to say the team. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic people at CRC. Each member of the team adds their own professional touch, unique experiences, and strengths, making the process of generating new ideas much more enjoyable.

We may be a small team but when we collaborate there’s never any shortage of great ideas. And when it comes to starting a new campaign or moving onto a new account, I know I’ve got solid support to lean on.

Describe your job in three words?

Reading the news.

What achievement are you most proud of since being with the agency?

In the lead up to and following last year’s Spring Budget, we achieved an excellent range of national and broadcast media coverage for a B2C personal finance client, including several radio appearances. Given how hugely competitive political announcements like the Budget are from a PR perspective, it was a rewarding campaign – it showed that we got everything right in terms of messaging, timing, and being on the pulse of the political and economic situation in the country at the time.

What is the last book you read or listened to?

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory. It’s a collection of absurdist short stories by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, who also created the show BoJack Horseman. Some of the stories are more interesting than others but altogether it’s a very witty and entertaining series with a good mix of tragedy, romance and dark humour.

What are you most likely to be found doing outside of work?

On a walk exploring the pubs and food of an area of London I’ve not been to yet.

Scott Rimell

Account Executive

About the author

Scott joined the City Road Comms team as a Communications Executive at the end of 2021. Prior to this he gained a degree in English language and linguistics and a Masters in politics and media from the University of Sheffield, after a period of time working in the ESL industry.


News & Updates

Meet the City Road Comms team: Archie Osmond

As far as meet-and-greets are concerned, Archie Osmond was thrown in the deep end. It was two years ago that he showed up at the City Road Comms’ Christmas party (he was invited, to be fair) – it was his first chance to meet the team before starting his role with the agency in January 2022.

Archie joined CRC soon after finishing his politics and international relations degree at Leeds Uni. Ever since taking his first steps into the world of PR and comms, he has excelled in delivering great content, exceptional media coverage and assisting on a wide variety of accounts, ranging from mortgage clients through to personal finance and cybersecurity.

Away from work, Archie’s interests include live comedy, the languishing Chelsea Football Club, and a new-found love of running. Read on to learn more about our up-and-coming account executive.

What attracted you to work in PR and communications?

Strangely enough, I didn’t know I wanted to go into PR until I was sitting in a job interview for a comms role with a different agency. They asked me why I wanted the job, and I said that I wanted to be a journalist. They then said: “That’s not what this job is”, and the interview ended quite abruptly. 

However, when I then started doing some reading up – probably something I should have done before the interview – I learned that I actually did want to work for a comms agency, not a newsroom. 

Coming from a degree in politics and international relations, I knew I wanted to work in an industry that required you to have your finger on the pulse of current affairs. The rest, as they say, is history.

Which business is nailing it with their PR and comms?

Norwich City Football Club did a social media campaign for World Mental Health Day earlier this year, which I thought was fantastic. As well as changing their shirt sponsor to suicide prevention charity Samaritans for a game, the club produced a clever video that raised awareness for men’s mental health and encouraged people to check in on their friends, even if they don’t appear to be struggling.

It’s a really important topic considering that suicide is the leading cause of death among men under the age of 50. The video is on the club’s X (formerly known as Twitter) account, I’d encourage you to check it out if you haven’t seen it already. For me, it was a great example of how organisations or brands can use different platforms and forms of content to spark conversations around big issues. 

What are you most likely to be found doing outside of work?

During the summer, I’d most likely be found watching the cricket. But now that the season is over, I spend most of my time running or cooking – although I don’t always do them at the same time.

What website do you visit the most?

I suppose I should say that Cision (the website we use for our media monitoring and journo database) is my most visited website… but I think it would be remiss of me to suggest that it was anything other than BBC Sport’s cricket page. 

Whether it’s keeping up with someone’s bowling average or checking in on the latest scores, I think it’s important for PR professionals to be on top of the world’s greatest game at all times.

What is the last book you read?

The Business by Iain Banks. He’s my favourite author at the moment, although this probably wasn’t his best work. Nevertheless, it had an interesting concept, and the main character was very likeable – I don’t think I’d want to do PR for her company though.

What is your coffee order?

Cappuccino with no cocoa powder on top under any circumstances – it’s a coffee, not a hot chocolate.

Archie Osmond

Account Executive

About the author

Archie graduated with a degree in International Relations from the University of Leeds in 2021, where he took a keen interest in U.S. politics and political communication. He started at City Road Communications in January 2022 as a Communications Executive with clients spanning property, investment and technology.


News & Updates

Why clichés and jargon will kill your PR strategy

Dominic Pollard, Director, City Road Communications

Jargon is divisive, especially in business. Some embrace it – there’s nothing they like more than to touch base, deep dive or circle back. Then there are those who are seemingly revulsed by these workplace idiosyncrasies. Such phrases are readily mocked, easy fodder as they are for any satire of crap management. 

But I am guilty of using jargon. It’s hard not to. Barely a meeting will go by without my mentioning marcomms, op-eds, sell-ins, and “hits” of coverage – all terms that would have people outside of the PR and communications industry scratching their heads.

I am working on it. Yet there is also an important distinction in when jargon is used.

In everyday internal communication within businesses, jargon fulfils a purpose. They are invariably phrases that are understood and can succinctly convey an opinion or a necessary action. Also, in dialogue, clarifications can easily be provided to ensure the right message comes across. 

When it comes to external communications, however, it is a very different matter. Jargon and, more generally, lazy clichés must be avoided at all costs. 

As PR professionals, our job is to help businesses and brands effectively communicate ideas and stories to different audiences. Jargon can be a huge hindrance, both when speaking with journalists and when putting content in front of a reader. 

Avoiding jargon with journalists 

Journalists are contacted by dozens if not hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of businesses and PR agencies each day. Whether sending them a press release or an idea for a guest article for their publication, to get their attention, your pitch must be clear and concise. Jargon that might be familiar to one business (or PR agency) might be lost on the journalist. The result: they quickly move on to the next email in their inbox.

Yet it is equally bad practice to use phrases that are so commonplace and clichéd that they lose any impact or meaning. 

Here are some of the best examples of this: disruptive, next-generation, innovative, ground-breaking. There is a propensity among businesses to weave these adjectives into their marketing copy. And many PR professionals are guilty of it too.

I’ve lost count of the number of businesses I have spoken to that describe themselves as disruptive. Very few are – in fact when it comes to early-stage startups, it is a tiny, tiny percentage. They might be nascent businesses with the potential to disrupt a market, industry or status quo, but only if they scale immensely. 

If, then, you email a journalist shouting about the latest piece of news from your disruptive, next-gen startup, expect short shrift. Journalists tend to be cynical by nature – they ought to be, given they have to scrutinise and unearth interesting, newsworthy nuggets of information from a vast number of lengthy emails and documents. So, it is logical that they would tut and roll their eyes when reading their tenth press release that day wherein a startup describes itself as disruptive.

Robert Scammell, editor of UK Tech News, sums it up perfectly: “Startups have limited time to capture a journalist’s attention. Why waste it on clichéd words that add no value and will ultimately never make it into a story? 

“At best, words like ‘next-gen’, ‘market-leading’ and ‘disruptive’ come across as lazy. At worst, they indicate a startup is compensating for a lack of identity or, in some cases, a solid business model.  

“The inverse is also true – a startup that clearly communicates what it does and the problem it’s solving without the fluff signals confidence in itself.”

Clear, whenever speaking with journalists, being as plain and direct as possible is the best approach. That’s why brevity is now such an important skill when it comes to PR and communications.

Keeping jargon out of your customer-facing content 

Jargon can act as a deterrent when trying to pique the interest of journalists. Its impact when communicating directly with your desired audience is different, but no less serious.

We could be talking about a press release or guest article you want to get published in the media or perhaps content for your own blog or social media platforms. Whatever form the content is taking, the same guiding principle applies – focus on conveying your message as clearly and simply as possible.

Your content needs to demonstrate a knowledge of a particular topic or issue; establish your brand’s values and align these with those of your customers, and encourage people to trust in what you say and what you do, to name a few key objectives. To achieve this, get your points across using simple language that everyone understands. Avoid banal phrases that don’t actually mean anything.

Yes, yes, there might be times when you are writing for an industry-specific readership, in which case there are likely going to be phrases that will be widely understood by the audience. But one should always be mindful of writing content on the assumption that their jargon is universally known within a particular field. 

Moreover, as stated at the very start of this article, jargon is divisive, even if people know fully well what it means. It will not resonate well with all people nor build a positive rapport. Similarly, clichés are by definition, generic and unimaginative, hardly likely to elicit much of a response from a reader. 

Fundamentally, PR is about building and maintaining a positive image of your business and the people within it. Getting in the right media outlets so as to be seen by your desired audiences is a key part of the challenge, but creating content that will have a positive impact is even more important. Jargon impedes both. 

Businesses managing their own public relations and external communications must step back and carefully consider the language they are using. PR agencies, meanwhile, must have open enough relationships with clients to tell ‘you shouldn’t describe yourself as a disruptive, next-gen fintech innovator’ for fear of pissing off both journalists and their readers. 

Say what you think, explain what you do, or provide insight into the topic. And do it through clear and concise language.

Dominic Pollard

Communications Director

About the author

With a history degree, journalism Master’s, and several years’ experience writing about business and technology for both the national and trade press, Dominic moved into the world of content marketing and comms in 2014. He joined City Road Comms in 2016, becoming the agency’s director of comms two years later. Dominic now oversees clients’ strategies and the overall operations of the agency.


News & Updates

Meet the City Road Comms team: Georgina McBride

Georgina McBride recently celebrated her one-year anniversary with City Road Comms, having joined the team in September 2022. In that time, she has relocated from Aberdeen to London and, when the weekend comes around, is an avid explorer of all the capital has to offer.

Georgina has a languages background, having studied French at Edinburgh university, including a year in Paris. She graduated last year and promptly entered the world of comms, joining our team soon after. She currently works as a communications executive, with her accounts spanning everything from financial services, wellbeing and tech to commercial real estate and flexible working. 

Read on to find out more about Georgina, what she enjoys most about PR (and City Road Comms), and her advice to SMEs seeking media coverage. 

What attracted you to work in PR and communications?

There’s nothing I enjoy more than exercising creativity and solving puzzles, and working in PR allows for the perfect marriage of both. Between writing compelling content, pitching to journalists, and firing out reactive commentary, getting strong results requires you to look beyond what’s obvious and think about why the story you’re telling matters – and, crucially, how you can make it stand out from the crowd.

What do you enjoy about working at City Road Comms?

What is ultimately the most rewarding aspect of the job is seeing what an impact our comms efforts can have on our clients’ growth and reputation. Whether it be achieving widespread brand awareness through national coverage, generating leads for new business, or even getting a deal over the line, the power of strong earned media coverage never ceases to amaze.

Plus, everyone on the City Road Comms team is a joy to work with. They are willing to get stuck in and support on any and every project. I’ve never experienced a more supportive or welcoming company culture!

Describe your job in three words.

Intentionally shaping perception.

What one piece of advice would you give to a startup founder wanting to do their own PR?

When you’re passionate about your business, it can be easy to get caught up on what you’re selling. Rather than focusing on what your product is in your PR storytelling (which can often come across too salesy to pique a journalist’s interest), focus on the wider problem it’s solving. That’s where you’ll find your news hook. 

What’s the worst thing about working in PR?

The news can be unpredictable, and even the best laid PR plans can be thrown awry by an unexpected turn of events – 2022’s merry-go-round of prime ministers feels like a strong example! It can be stressful, but being able to think on your feet and pivot direction when things don’t go to plan is essential.

What are you most likely to be found doing outside of work?

Trying out a new recipe, ticking the next Sunday brunch spot off my bucket list or watching a play on the West End.

What is your coffee order?

Typically, something with lots of milk and sugar – a dirty chai latte is my current favourite!

Georgina McBride

Communications Executive

About the author

Georgina joined the agency as a Communications Executive in September 2022, with clients spanning property, fintech and technology. Prior to this, she graduated with a degree in French at the University of Edinburgh, where she developed an interest in technology and communications while interning at a Parisian startup during her year abroad.


News & Updates

The curse of knowledge in PR – how to tell your story without being too technical

Sian Bradshaw, Account Manager, City Road Communications

Working in PR and communications, we are often tasked with distilling the complex into something incredibly simple. 

For finance and technology clients, this challenge is even more pronounced. In a world where buzzwords like CFDs, NFTs, AI, IoT and Everything-as-a-Service can leave readers with glazed-over expressions, telling a story that resonates with the audience and has broader news appeal, without sounding like a PhD thesis, takes skill. 

This is because, generally, organisations deep in the weeds of building their business are often immersed in the technicalities of their products. When telling their brand’s story, it can be easy to get carried away – many will launch straight into technical lingo and lose sight of the bigger picture. 

Ultimately, when it comes to generating the right content, not to mention positive media coverage, having great technical knowledge can be something of a curse. If not seen through the right lens, a business risks alienating both journalists and their readers by bombarding them with overly technical information. 

So, how do we deliver successful comms strategies for businesses with very technical products, or operating in niche sectors? Here’s how City Road Comms makes its campaigns more PR, less Proust.

Organise a ‘brain dump’ 

Many people in the PR and comms industry are adept at getting themselves up to speed with unfamiliar and complex topics quickly. However, when it comes to grasping all the details about a complex offering, sometimes it can be more valuable to recognise your own limitations and take a lesson from the experts.

If a client’s proposition is particularly complex, or there’s a lot going on in the company at once, arranging and transcribing a Q&A session during the onboarding process can provide a useful starting point for determining your messaging and PR strategy going forward. Ultimately, there is nobody better versed in your client’s industry than your client, and having someone talk through their value proposition in depth can help you determine which aspects will be the most interesting from a press perspective.  

These sessions are the chance to ask all the basic questions to clients – to get the dummy’s guide, as it were. You can delve into the products as well as interesting topics in the media, pertinent industry trends and how their company ties into them. Your client can ‘brain dump’ their specialist knowledge. From there, you can gather the most important facts and ideas to use in your campaigns, not to mention get a strong handle on how your client’s spokespeople talking about industry issues and their proposition.

Focus on the audience 

Once you’ve gathered the knowledge you need, the next step is communicating the right message with precision.

Working with any new client, one of the most important things to consider is who their audience is, and what do they care about most? This will obviously vary between different companies and products, but the end-goal is always the same – establishing what key problem you’re solving for your customer and explaining it with clarity and simplicity. 

In general, it’s very rare that the technical aspects of a product will be the most interesting to readers, particularly in when it comes to consumer-facing comms. Instead, it can be more effective to frame the brand story around real-life examples or case studies that demonstrate how the product improves efficiency, saves time or money, or solves common pain points. 

Take one high-profile product launch as an example – back in 2001 when Apple announced the first iPod, engineers were really excited about the amount of storage space the device had – 5 gigabytes of data. Apple recognised that this messaging was perhaps less interesting to its customers at the time, who wouldn’t necessarily have known whether this was a lot, or even what a gigabyte was. Instead, Steve Jobs simply said “1,000 songs in your pocket” – he spared his audience of the complicated tech specs and spoke about the product in a relatable way that was aligned with their level of knowledge and what they cared about most. 

This is a lesson that most PR and comms professionals will learn at some point or another – that, more often than not, simple and punchy is best.

What’s the wider issue?

While establishing your client’s USPs is a crucial problem to solve, it’s equally important to understand how their offering fits into the broader news agenda.

Instead of issuing too many product-focused press releases or company announcements, looking for connections between your client’s product and broader topics that are already capturing public attention can be a more effective means of spreading the word. For example, if the client in question has launched an investment app, offering regular investment tips or timely market commentary may be a better way to get cut through with journalists and reach your audience.

By offering journalists new insights on these breaking topics (in other words, ‘newsjacking’), whether through your own data or expert commentary, brands can align their stories with popular trends to ensure their relevance – while also establishing themselves as thought leaders. 

Beyond the jargon

Crafting a ‘simple’ brand narrative that resonates with audiences is anything but easy – it is an art form, with a great deal of time and effort required to transform complex ideas into compelling stories. Businesses that invest in PR to help them do this – whether in-house or through an agency –  can curate a stronger brand identity and better-position themselves for commercial success.

For businesses with more technical products or services, stripping away the nuts and bolts of what you do and focusing on why you exist is key. 

Sian Bradshaw

Account Manager

About the author

Sian joined CRC back in 2020 after reading English at the University of Cambridge, with varied experience in student journalism, project management and youth engagement. Since then, she has worked with a variety of the agency’s clients in the tech, business and finance sectors, and now works as an account manager, where she crafts innovative, targeted communications strategies for her accounts.


News & Updates

Meet the City Road Comms team: Jack Manners

Jack Manners is an account manager at City Road Comms. He joined the team as account executive in May last year, bringing with him two years of comms experience in the property development sector. He was promoted to the AM position in January 2023. 

Combining an insatiable appetite for current affairs, particularly political and social issues, Jack has a great ability to bridge the gap between industry trends and the big stories of the day, ensuring his clients remain relevant and in tune with the media landscape. 

Putting PR to one side, Jack is the most likely member of the CRC team to be in charge of music in the office… “eclectic” would probably be the best way to describe his tastes. 

Here’s a bit more on Jack, his thoughts on working in PR, and which company he feels nails its comms. 

What attracted you to work in PR and communications?

Ultimately, I think effective PR and communications hinge on the ability to elicit a desired reaction. Achieving this not only requires excellent writing skills and subject knowledge but an ability to adapt and strategize campaigns to wider public context and external factors. It’s never static – the demands set by a piece of content vary greatly based on time, sector and client, but they will also be completely different depending on the desired reaction or response you are hoping to trigger in the reader. For me, this makes PR and communications a unique but rewarding form of problem-solving. 

What do you enjoy about working at City Road Comms?

The accounts I work on require me to have a strong understanding of various sectors, as well as their respective media landscapes; it’s extremely satisfying to apply this to constructing campaigns that are timely and relevant. It’s also something that you find yourself becoming more naturally attuned to as experience develops and time passes by. 

Which business is nailing it with their PR and comms?


Undoubtedly, they are one of the stingiest brands on the planet, but they completely own it with humour. They are also particularly good at applying this to current events and sentiments – a recent example was their announcement that Boris Johnson wouldn’t be allowed to fly back from his holiday and compete in the leadership election via Ryanair. 

What website do you visit the most?

Definitely Twitter. I’m addicted to it but, in my opinion, it’s the ultimate news source. So long as you take everything with a pinch of salt.

What is the last book you read or listened to?

At the risk of sounding deeply pretentious (yet an avid intellectual), the last book I read was Why Nations Fail. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the overlap of economics, politics, and history in creating the environments that foster growth and decline. So much of the argument is presented through case studies which exposed me to periods of history from around the world that I had not previously been familiar with. 

What are you most likely to be found doing outside of work?

Thinking about my dog, Claudia-Jane. 

Jack Manners

Account Manager

About the author

Jack joined City Road as an Account Executive in May 2022. Jack has a diverse range of skills and experiences. Previously, Jack worked in Planning and Development communications and strategy, helping to secure planning consent in councils across London and deliver meaningful community engagement. Prior to that, Jack studied Physics at the University of Edinburgh, where alongside his studies he ran several campaigns advocating for student accessibility and inclusion.


News & Updates

Bill Gates and David Brent – two great minds who understand the value of PR

“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations”.

You may have seen this quote from Bill Gates. Most PR professionals will have it tattooed somewhere on their person, so sacrosanct is it to the entire industry.

Yes, admittedly, there is a slight question over whether Gates ever actually uttered the words. But there is also the question of why he would say such a thing… Why should a business commit to PR even if it’s in the financial doldrums? Or why should a startup invest in PR while on tight, bootstrapping budgets? Or why should PR come before other forms of marketing? 

Buy a newer car

At the heart of Gates’ purported quote is the sense that PR hold immense value to a business – that it should be the first and last thing that an organisation invests in. Why? Perception. 

Let’s take another famous quote, this time from a businessperson of lesser repute: David Brent. In one episode of The Office, Brent says: “Does a struggling salesman start turning up on a bicycle? No, he turns up in a newer car. Perception, yeah?”

I’m being completely serious. There is the crux of a very sensible point in there: perception is everything. 

PR is fundamentally about building and maintaining a positive image of an individual or organisation. When it comes to liaising with media, effective PR will improve both the awareness and reputation of a brand in front its desired audience.

Now, one of the most common mistakes that business leaders make – and, in my experience, this is particularly true among tech startup founders (those who become engrossed in the inner mechanics of the tech they have developed) – is to assume the quality of their proposition will be directly proportional to the quality, and quantity, of the media coverage they will get. That is rarely the case. 

Very, very few businesses are talked about due to the genuine inventiveness of their product or service. No, the prominence of a brand and number of articles featuring a business will almost always be the result of its PR strategy. 

Put another way, why invest in any other part of the company if there is no PR strategy to ensure the right people have the right perception of you. And that, in my opinion at least, is what we should take from Gates’ quote.  

Sharing your story

Whether to support customer acquisition, build the profiles of the leadership team, attract and retain talent, or elicit interest among investors, PR is essential. It will help tell your business’ story – who you exist for and why. It ensures people are aware of all the values you champion and perceptions you challenge. It will establish your brand’s tone of voice. It will keep the world abreast of your latest news. And it will maintain the desired, favourable image of your business. 

Bill Gates knows this (apparently). So does David Brent (definitely). And while you might not choose to spend your last dollar on it, any business not actively engaged in PR – in-house or with an agency – is undoubtedly overlooking one of the most singular ingredients for business success. 

Read more:

Dominic Pollard

Communications Director

About the author

With a history degree, journalism Master’s, and several years’ experience writing about business and technology for both the national and trade press, Dominic moved into the world of content marketing and comms in 2014. He joined City Road Comms in 2016, becoming the agency’s director of comms two years later. Dominic now oversees clients’ strategies and the overall operations of the agency.


News & Updates

Meet the City Road Comms team: Hector Johnston Stewart

Hector joined City Road Comms in July 2021, bringing with him a uniquely varied set of experiences.

With a degree in Arabic and World Cinema from the University of Leeds, Hector lived in Jordan between 2017 and 2019, working in copywriting and communications positions. This was followed by a one-year stint with the Chickpea Group, an award-winning collection of pubs with rooms and pizza shops nestled in the South West, as its Communications and Logistics Officer.

Upon joining the agency last summer, Hector made an immediate impression. He progressed from Communications Executive to Account Executive after his first year with CRC, and already plays a key role in devising and executing PR strategies, liaising with clients, and helping in the onboarding and development of new team members.

A man of many talents – not least his ability to order for the entire table whenever we venture out for a team meal – in this blog Hector shares his views on PR and comms, life at CRC, and what connects Dolly Parton and Superman…

What attracted you to work in PR and communications?

PR was once described to me by a family friend as “law for people who don’t want to go to law school”. I’m not qualified to verify this, but I am sure that I didn’t want to go to law school.

PR is a wonderful melting pot of creative types from different disciplines, specialities and backgrounds, and I’ve had wonderful colleagues and mentors in PR and comms roles, both in the UK and abroad. I can’t say I entered the workforce already planning to end up in PR, (I fancied myself a humanitarian at first but swiftly realised I had neither the stomach nor the patience) but now that I’m here I’ve found a lot to like about it.

What do you enjoy about working at City Road Comms?

It’s great to know one has the full backing of your company, and I’ve never felt that CRC didn’t have my best interests and development at heart. Though colleagues inevitably come and go, I’ve always been surrounded by a warm and genuine team and am confident that future hires will fit the mould.

The nature of client-based PR means that one must regularly become an expert in new subjects at short notice. While sometimes overwhelming, it’s exciting to tackle a new topic and quickly bring oneself up to speed. Plus, I can pretend to know what I’m talking about at dinner parties much more often.

Describe your job in three words.

Professional-sounding improvisation.

What’s the worst thing about working in PR?

Coming across an opportunity for a campaign or comment too late. With reactive commentary, speed is of the essence, and we can’t spend all our time scouring the media for every opening. Finding the perfect opportunity to promote a client after the event is terribly frustrating ¬– though there will always be more opportunities!

What website do you visit the most?

Genius.com. This has nothing to do with how brilliant I may or may not think I am, but in my free time, I love to analyse song lyrics in great depth and engage in the discourse of this nerdy little community.

As a short exercise, go away and take a song you’ve heard 100 times before and look up the lyrics on the site (in the biz, we call this a ‘call to action’). See if you don’t find out some interesting nuance or discover a lyric you’ve always misheard. They also have poems, speeches, interviews with artists explaining their songs – it’s a fun little site!

What is the last book you read or listened to?

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. Chaotic, moving and fewer than 150 pages¬ – heaven. Reading it, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my twenties have been rather tame so far. I still have a while left, I suppose!

Random fact

Dolly Parton is the Clark Kent of fame.

She always wears enormous wigs, heavy make-up in public (even at night in case she needs to run out of the house in an emergency) and has always kept her residence and husband’s identity as a closely guarded secret.

When they go out together in public without her “Dolly” costume, nobody knows who she is. It’s like a magic trick to preserving her normal life. Well done, Dolly.

Hector Johnston Stewart

Account Manager

About the author

Hector joined CRC as a communications executive in 2021, having previously held PR and comms roles at companies in the UK and the Middle East. Since arriving at the company, Hector has worked with clients from the finance, tech, property and hospitality sectors. His responsibilities include liaising with clients and journalists, generating content, and working with the accounts team to provide input on messaging and strategy.


News & Updates