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

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

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

Five great achievements in five years of City Road Comms

A fifth birthday party typically conjures thoughts of hyperactive children, jelly and clowns.

City Road Comms’ recent fifth birthday celebrations, thankfully, had none of those things… well, some may say there were a few clowns in the room, but not in the truest sense of the word.

It was a lovely evening: a chance to spend time with clients – some of whom we’ve worked with for a couple of years without ever meeting in person (thanks, Covid) – in a more relaxed setting. And a chance to bring together all our team, including a few former employees who played important roles in our journey to date.

The event was also a rare opportunity to reflect on everything CRC has achieved since November 2017. After all, how often in businesses do we take a step back and celebrate our own successes?

The nature of being a smaller agency dictates that day-to-day life tends to be busy. Planning, pitching, writing, monitoring, reporting, liaising with clients; you are driven by a to-do list of what needs to be achieved for each client, and ensuring the results consistently meet, if not exceed, expectations.

But from time-to-time, it’s important to put aside busyness and bashfulness. So, having been a director of the agency since day one, I thought I’d share the five things that I am most proud of from CRC’s first five years…

1. Long-term client relationships

During the early months of City Road Comms, as the agency was finding its feet, we had just two retained clients on the books. Fast forward five years, those two clients are still with us.

But it’s not just those two clients that have stuck with us. We enjoy very little churn; the vast majority of businesses we work with remain with CRC for the long haul.

In fact, we’ve worked with 80% of our current clients for longer than 12 months – a little over half have been with us since 2020 or earlier. It’s a clear indication that we deliver value for clients, not to mention the quality of the relationships we have built with those businesses and the people within them.

2. The bigger picture

Over the years, as the agency grew in numbers and our client-base became more stable, we have managed to gain perspective on the bigger picture.

There is an ever-greater focus on purpose within business, often through the lens of ESG and CSR policies. And at CRC, we have taken action in the past three years to ensure we’re influencing positive change.

For one, we have done away with the traditional PR agency model of sending gifts to clients at Christmas – we swapped luxury hampers for charitable donations. Namely, each year since 2020 we have back the Crisis at Christmas campaign, offering homeless people food and shelter over the festive period. We will do the same again this year.

More recently still, we created The Forest of City Road Communications – a carbon offsetting tree-planting initiative that you can read more about here.

In 2023, we have plans to do much more when it comes to supporting charitable and ESG initiatives.

3. Consistency

One of the most common grievances I hear from founders and CEOs about their past experiences of working with PR agencies is the sheer inconsistency of the work, not to mention the results. Often this manifests itself in short bursts of media coverage, which the agency then dines off for weeks or months.

At CRC, we take pride in delivering great results week after week after week. For me, this is the true sign of quality; not being great once or twice, but doing it with unerring regularity.

How? Well, our campaigns are meticulously planned and mapped out in quarterly calendars, providing clients with a clear overview of all our deliverables in advance of each month – it is transparent and ensures complete accountability.

With the plans in place, there’s nowhere to hide from our expecting clients. They know what we are meant to deliver. So, we push ourselves to deliver great content and excellent media coverage every week. In my opinion, this consistency – compared to the complacency of some competitors – is one of our great strengths. Again, it underlines why clients stay with CRC for years.

4. People and culture

My favourite part of working with CRC is the people. Over the years we have assembled a wonderful team of people. Many join the agency as one of their first jobs in the world of PR and comms, and seeing their development is very rewarding.

Irrevocably linked to our people is our culture. It is something staff regularly highlight as the most appealing element of life at CRC.

The culture has evolved organically – we do not have slogans on the wall, we don’t do a lot in terms of team-building initiatives. Instead, we embrace open, honest communication between the team, combined with an ethos where everyone mucks in on the work that needs to be done. Doing away with strict, lineated hierarchies accelerates people’s development, giving them exposure to a greater range of tasks and responsibilities. Plus, I believe, it creates an environment where people have greater flexibility and can express themselves more freely.

5. Mentorship and founder support

Back in 2019, when the agency was just a couple of years old, we began working with London & Partners as a strategic partner on their Business Growth Programme (BGP). What that basically means is that for every cohort of start-ups that join the BGP, we provide a two-hour workshop to explain the value of PR for early-stage businesses, along with advice of how to do it well.

Three years on, we are still performing this role. A rough calculation would say that in this time we have run workshops with some 300 start-up founders and leaders. Often, after the session, CRC will provide further assistance to them, gratis, to help them during the formative stages of their business journey.

It’s really satisfying to meet with founders during those early months and years of their start-up stories. It has heightened our understanding of the challenges smaller businesses face when executing successful PR strategies and, in turn, how we can cater our offering to the start-up community.

It has been an interesting, challenging and extremely rewarding journey to date. I’m excited to see how City Road Comms grows and develops over the next five years.

Want to know more about how CRC could help your organisation? Get in touch!

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

City Road Comms turns five!

We’re delighted to have celebrated our fifth birthday this week, marking five years of City Road Comms.

It’s been a chance to reflect on the growth and evolution of City Road Comms since November 2017. After all, one in five businesses in the UK do not survive their first year, with 60% failing within three years – so, reaching the ripe old age of five felt worthy of raising a toast.

And that’s exactly what we did. The Ivy City Garden played host to an evening soiree this past week, with clients, staff and partners – of both past and present – coming together to mark the milestone.

Our thanks go to all our clients for the support they have shown over the years. As an agency, we pride ourselves on delivering incredible media coverage for clients. But just as important is the way we go about our work. Honesty, transparency and accountability are core values for CRC and undoubtedly set us apart. 

Indeed, the combination of our results and our methods helps us to form successful, long-term relationships with clients. In fact, we have worked with 80% of our current clients for longer than 12 months – a little over half have been with us since 2020 or earlier. 

It’s sure-fire sign that we’re doing something right. 

For Dominic Pollard, our director of communications, it all comes down to the team. 

“All of our success over the past five years comes down to the incredible work of the people within the agency,” Dominic said. “The hard graft they put in, not to mention their intelligence, amazing writing skills, professionalism, and nose for a good story: these are the things that ensure a brilliant service and excellent results.”

He added: “We also enjoy the unique benefits of being part of the Media Ventures International family. Precious few PR and comms agencies work under the same roof as journalists and editors – it opens up exciting opportunities, as well as giving us the chance the speak openly with the very people we’re pitching stories to on behalf of clients.”

With the Champagne corks swept up and the birthday cake going stale, the back-slapping has drawn to a close; it’s back down to work. We’re ending the year in a strong position and look forward to what 2023 – not to mention the next five years – brings for CRC, our clients and our team.

Marco Callegari


About the author

Committed to elevating brands and advertisers to engage with their audience through data led strategy, Marco specialises in evolving the media landscape with a focus on emerging trends and challenging the status quo. Putting value at the forefront, from business to the people - Marco can often be found organising the team drinks.


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PR for a startup: Two tips for achieving success

Between January and June 2022, more than 402,000 new businesses were registered in the UK. That equates to around 80 every hour, or one every 45 seconds.

Evidently, neither the pandemic nor the ensuing cost-of-living crisis have managed to dampen the country’s entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, the challenges spawned from both tumultuous events have, in turn, created opportunities for entrepreneurs, with innovative new solutions launched to help consumers and businesses through the crises. 

This is to be celebrated. What it does mean, however, is that fledgling businesses find themselves in a crowded startup space. That is not only problematic from a commercial perspective, but also for brand-building. 

When establishing an early-stage business – whether trying to secure customers, employees, investors or social media followers – the strength of the brand is of utmost importance. This extends far beyond a sharp logo, name and website; it is about having the right ‘digital footprint’. In other words, what would a person find if they searched for your company – what content have you created, what articles are you featured in and what overall impression are they left with.

Here, PR (particularly media relations) is king. After all, public relations is fundamentally about building and maintaining a favourable image of your brand. So, for a startup hoping to stand out from the crowd, achieving PR success is essential.

But how to do it. Well, here are two key pieces of advice.

  1. 1. Focus on ‘why’

‘Build it and they will come’, as was the tagline of the 1989 Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams. It is an apt concept when it comes to startup PR – there is a common assumption that if one builds an amazing product, then the media coverage will naturally follow.

It is rarely true. For the most part, journalists do not want to provide free advertising to a startup by providing an in-depth review of their business and how it works. Far more important is why your business exists.

As yourself: what pertinent issues are you tackling? How are you making people’s lives easier? Why does a particular market or sector need to be disrupted – what damage is being caused by the traditional ways of doing things?

Journalists will focus on the topics that matter to them and their audience, whether that’s climate change or mental health, business management or diversity and inclusivity, personal finances or investment trends. And as a startup, you must talk about the issues people can relate to – for instance, a new fintech brand would be better served discussing the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation on consumers’ finances than they would the UI and UX of their product. 

When devising a holistic PR strategy that addresses the aforementioned questions, it is advisable to use both quantitative and qualitative insights. That is to say, it’s better to have insightful facts and figures – ideally ones gathered by the startups itself rather than widely available. Doing so will bolster communications significantly, turning what could be dismissed as rhetoric into solid context for the business and its offering

With 80 startups formed every hour, the ones which talk about the issues that matter will have their voices heard, not the ones that talk only about themselves. 

  1. 2. Avoid a stop-start approach

One of the most common mistakes startups make when it comes to PR is that they only focus on it in short-burst. Specifically, the only think about PR at key times for the business: product launches and funding rounds are prime examples. 

This is understandable. Startups’ resources are limited and they may be managing their media relations and PR internally on a more ad hoc basis. But as much as possible it is advisable to view PR as an ongoing part of the business’ growth strategy.

Journalists must recognise that the business – or its leadership team – is available for comment or interview whenever they may require it. They must understand which topics, issues and trends your brand is keen to talk about.

Journalists do not only want to hear from a business when it is flogging its own news. 

Furthermore, when press coverage goes live, the business must be ready to capitalise on this exposure by engaging with more journalists. This enables a startup’s name to become known and for a solid pipeline of press coverage to be developed.

Flipping the switch on and off not only makes it harder to get positive responses from journalists in those small windows of time, but this approach will also mean that a startup only ever secures short bursts of coverage. This is ineffective. You want your brand to appearing in front of a desired audience on a regular basis, building awareness and trust over time. So, whether your startup is looking to attract the attention of consumers, employees, investors or other businesses, consistent and on-going PR is a far more effective and powerful path to success.

Knowing what makes for a killer PR strategy is not easy. Nor is cutting through the noise and grabbing the attention of journalists. But by focusing on the bigger issues at play, and ensuring your startup is constantly considering its PR, media relations and brand-building activities, you will stand a far better chance of emerging out of the crowded startup space ahead of your competitors. 

If you need help managing your PR and communications, creating great content, or getting amazing media coverage, get in touch.

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.


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The value of reactive, responsive PR… and how to do it

There are many ways to get your business in the press, some more effective than others.

Yes, I know, that’s some razor-sharp insight, honed by many years working in PR. But keep reading — there are lessons here for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

At one end of the spectrum sits the mass distribution of an adjective-laden press release shouting about how great your business is. This is the bad end of the spectrum — it’s an approach that will, in my experience, be met with silence, indifference or a polite response of “piss off”.

At the other end sits the more effective PR: a business offering genuine opinion, advice or insight regarding pertinent topics or breaking news stories.

Why is it effective?

For two main reasons.

Firstly, those topics or events are already going to be written about by journalists, so you have the opportunity to align your business with the existing news agenda.

Put another way, it makes ‘the pitch’ a lot easier. You do not have to convince a journalist that you have a newsworthy story — the story is already there, you are just reacting to it.

Secondly, those topics or stories are actually of interest to the readers, hence journalists are writing about them. So, as a business you are discussing subjects that will resonate with a particular audience, be it consumers or businesspeople, rather than simply talking about yourself.

How to plan reactive PR

The easiest way to be successful through a reactive, responsive PR strategy is to plan as much as you can in advance, even if that sounds contradictory. Some may say “PR must be proactive, not reactive”… nonsense, it has to be both.

There is a huge number of events, announcements, anniversaries and awareness days that we know are going to dominate the news agenda well before they actually take place. Take some obvious examples in March:

  • 3 March, the Chancellor’s Spring Budget
  • 8 March, International Women’s Day
  • 23 March, one-year anniversary of the UK’s first Covid lockdown

There are more niche ones, too. Did you know, the 15 to 22 March is Compost Week UK? Slap bang in the middle of it, today in fact (19 March), is National Poultry Day. Two big hitters competing for column inches.

The point being that with a little research, using free online calendars or more sophisticated media planning tools, businesses can create a week-by-week diary of key events that will be of relevance to their customers. That’s step one; then comes the harder part.

Getting in the media

So, you know a major event is around the corner and that it is something your customers will be thinking about, talking about, reading about. But what can you do as a business to use that as a platform to get your name — or that of your CEO, for instance — in the media?

There are several options. You could conduct research into a specific topic relating to the event, using an anniversary or announcement as a news hook so journalists are more likely to write about your research. Could you, perhaps, conduct a survey delving into major issues brought about by the pandemic, using the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown as a timely moment to share the findings with the media?

Alternatively, in the build-up to or aftermath of the event, you could pitch to relevant publications — national newspapers, trade magazines and websites, local press — offering a guest article (op-ed) delving further into its importance or consequences.

For example, following the Spring Budget at the start of March, we had a client (a mortgage lender) featured in Bloomberg discussing the implications of the Chancellor’s decision to extend the stamp duty holiday and freeze various tax rates.

Another option: on the specific day of an event or announcement, or if there is a breaking news story, your business could share a quote reacting to the latest developments. This need only be a few sentences long — journalists are often hungry for business leaders’ reactions, particularly if they offer a clear-cut opinion on whether it is good or bad news.

Again, take the Spring Budget: on the day of the Chancellor’s announcement, we had three clients featured in the Daily Mail (along with many industry trade publications), while another had quotes included in articles from The TimesDaily Express and The Sun.

The trick was for us to work with the clients to create quotes the day before, given much of Rishi Sunak’s speech was known in advance, and then get those quotes to journalists likely to be covering the Budget as the announcement began. The speed and punchiness of the comments were the critical factors.

Build your brand and your journalist relationships

There are many ways to use the existing media agenda — and specific events you can plan around — to get your business in the press. The important thing is to engage with what journalists are actually writing about (or going to be writing about); offering useful opinion and insight around those topics is more likely to be of value than a generic press release about yourself.

Getting your brand in the media commenting on the day’s news might not be an overt promotion of your business — it will not be a direct sales pitch for your product or service. But it’s a great strategy for getting your name seen, developing a reputation as a respected voice within a particular market, and building strong relationships with journalists who will be responsive to your emails in the future.

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.


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The Ship of Theseus and PR: How can startups maintain a strong brand as they evolve?

Greek philosophy and public relations: two subjects that rarely inform the same discussion. But here we go (please bear with me).

In his biographical works Plutarch’s Lives, the eponymous Greek historian and writer questions our understanding of ‘identity’. He uses the example of The Ship of Theseus — a legendary king and war hero who purportedly founded the city of Athens.

According to the allegory, having returned from its nautical adventures, Theseus’ mythical ship sits in a harbour as a memorial to the king’s military achievements. However, over the course of a hundred years its rotting planks are replaced one by one. Plutarch asks, therefore, whether or not we should still consider the vessel to be the ship of Theseus if all its original parts have been replaced?

In different guises, this question has debated for the best part of two thousand years. Seldom, though, when talking about PR.

Yet there is relevance between the two, particularly for startups. Specifically, as businesses age, pivot and evolve into different entities, PR can play an important role in enabling a startup’s brand — its identity, if you will — to weather those changes and stand the test of time.

The evolution of a business

It’s almost inevitable that many elements of a startup will evolve over time. We see it persistently with the startups we work with at City Road Comms, even over the course of just two or three months.

For example, the personnel typically change dramatically over the course of several years — even co-founders fall-out and part ways. Business models and specialisms constantly adapt to market demands, and in some instances the company’s revenue streams end up being entirely different from those originally sought after.

And so we return to Theseus’ ship… albeit in a modern, commercial context.
When, several years into its journey, a startup looks back at its inception, it will often see that many of its component parts have changed from those when it was founded. What remains, more often than not, is the core premise of the business and the problem it’s attempting to solve — the actual service or product may be different, and the staff delivering it may not have been there from day one, but what’s left are the core values or propositions underpinning the business.

As with the proverbial Greek ship, conceptually the entity remains largely the same, even if its physical makeup has changed. Which brings us back to the matter of public relations and, in particular, how an effective PR strategy can help to develop and maintain a startup’s brand identity while things around it change.

PR and brand building

Public relations is often over-simplified as media relations — as a means of getting an organisation and its spokespeople into the press. In reality, while this is invariably a key element of a PR strategy, the aim ought to be far bigger.

As the art of maintaining an organisation’s public image, PR is essentially a brand-building exercise. It’s about creating an identity and presenting it to an audience — either in a B2B or B2C environment — so people are able to better understand who you are, what you do and the qualities you offer.

When done successfully, PR focuses on the conceptual or the ideological more than the specific practicalities of a business; this is particularly true for startups, which will struggle to get much airtime if they are only seen to be talking about their “brand new product”.

Indeed, one of the most common mistakes we see startups make in their PR strategies (before we begin working with them, of course) is to focus solely on selling themselves — to shamelessly shout about their supposed outstanding and unique qualities. Journalists often do not wish to promote such material, while readers will glean little value from it. Rather, effective PR is built around addressing pertinent issues that an audience can relate to and, ideally, offering insight into how people can overcome them.

Startup PR is, therefore, usually a matter of relating what the business does to the challenges of its potential clients. In doing so, the young company can build its brand around a core set of values; it will demonstrate the specialist knowledge of the business and develop trust within a marketplace.

Business identity and longevity

Effective brand building, which goes far beyond a logo and a name, is hugely important to the longevity of a startup.

As companies grow their parts change. For startups that wish to remain in the public eye — even if that is within niche B2B circles — the brand must be strong enough to withstand the constant process of evolution.

A business’ identity is not — or should not be — a CEO, nor the product, office or colour scheme on its website. It’s the brand.

And developing a strong, consistent brand requires a PR strategy that focuses on more than the component parts; one that is not preoccupied just with the here and now or a sales message but is instead centred on the core values of the business. In turn, this ought to ensure a startup’s client-facing image and the coverage it receives in the media is consistent and relevant, even if each of its planks (rotten or not) is replaced one by one.

This article is based on a piece that was originally written for Consultancy.uk.

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.


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