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Creative and intelligent campaigns
from award-winning Bristol PR Agency

How artificial intelligence is invading the news room

Computers have been an increasingly important part of our lives for years, so perhaps it should be no surprise that with the rise in artificial intelligence they are now set to take over our news rooms.

The former universities minister David Willetts warned recently that robots could take over the newsroom after the Associated Press news agency started using technology to automatically generate financial reports, dispensing with the need for reporters. Earlier this year the Washington Post also published an article about an earthquake that was automatically generated within minutes using an algorithm. So is the journalist about to be replaced by the journo-bot?

After all, how would you be able to tell if this article was written by a robot? Would a bland writing style and lack of irony or personality give it away?

The PR industry relies upon a free and powerful press for our work to have real value and should champion the cause of journalists. However, in recent years we have seen a contraction in the number of journalists in many media outlets, to the point that we have seen our press releases regurgitated word-for-word in some cases. So what effect would a rise in automated stories have on the reputation and authority of the media?

Commentators have argued that far from causing the death of the journalist, automation could be a liberating force, as great journalism will always rely on humans. Computers would be left to do the basic reports, leaving humans more time to investigate and dig into more complex and nuanced stories.

So let’s not fear the rise of the machine, but celebrate the added time it will give writers to investigate stories that wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day. It is when the PR-bot is released that we really need to be worried…

Shining a light on Bristol & Bath’s ‘globally-significant’ tech hub

In today’s competitive world, it is more important than ever that Bristol and Bath’s economic assets – such as its thriving tech sector – maintain a high profile nationally and beyond.

So we jumped at the opportunity to work with inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath in spreading the word about the region’s vibrant hub of technological innovation.

And we went on to secure coverage with leading outlets such as Forbes, Tech City News, Bloomberg Businessweek and BBC Business Online.

So, how did we do it? Our work in forging a successful relationship with national think tank Centre for Cities was integral to our success on this brief.

In anticipation of an influential new report by Centre for Cities and McKinsey & Co, we developed a range of press materials showing Bristol & Bath’s tech hub was to be singled out as “globally significant” and “high growth”.

We drew on Bristol and Bath’s latest tech news – including announcements by the likes of Huawei, Somo and JUST EAT that they planned to invest in the region – and incorporated interview opportunities with key commentators including Invest Bristol & Bath, Bristol & Bath Science Park and Aardman Animations.

The report was due out on the day of Silicon Gorge, a ‘Dragons’ Den-style’ event at the Engine Shed in Bristol, where regional tech companies pitched to national investors. We tied the event into the wider story, adding further colour to our pitch to journalists.

This approach ensured that reporters had a range of quality content to run, and resulted in plenty of positive coverage.

Liz Humphries, marketing manager at Invest Bristol & Bath, says:

“Spirit is passionate about and committed to implementing highly effective, intelligent and bespoke PR campaigns. In particular, we are impressed by their attention to detail, their expert knowledge in our key sectors and their strategic approach. In a short space of time, Spirit has produced excellent results.”

We’re looking forward to continuing to work with Invest Bristol & Bath in banging the drum for the region’s tech sector and its many other economic strengths.

Tackling illegal tobacco campaign

We’ve been working closely with tobacco reduction organisation Smokefree South West to launch a campaign to combat the illegal tobacco trade in the region.

The Tackling Illegal Tobacco Campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal tobacco which is known to encourage criminals into communities. It is a key route to young people taking up smoking as it is sold at pocket money prices.

News stories are always more appealing to broadcast media if there is a strong visual element, so we invited the press to cover illegal tobacco raids in Swindon to create a story that had a strong news angle and really powerful images.

BBC Points West, ITV West & West County, BBC Radio Wiltshire, Heart West Country and the Swindon Advertiser all attended the raids and covered the story extensively.

As Smokefree South West is commissioned by local authorities across the region, we were also asked to generate coverage in each local area. Having previously worked with the organisation on a variety of projects, we knew that it was essential to include localised statistics, so we dug deep into a recent report to unearth some strong facts and figures which made it relevant to local newspapers and radio stations across the South West.

The campaign has so far generated coverage across all regional broadcast media, as well as BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Radio Devon, Jack & The Breeze, Pirate FM, the Bristol Post, the Bath Chronicle, the Gloucestershire Gazette and the Plymouth Herald, helping to raise awareness about this important issue across the region

The Tackling Illegal Tobacco Campaign will last for the next six weeks so keep an eye out for more coverage later this summer.

For more information on the campaign click here.

Bringing nature festival to life

The Festival of Nature returned this summer to Bristol and the West of England and brought in Spirit again to help promote its expanded range of events.

Its Wild Weekend is the UK’s biggest free celebration of the natural world with two days of free interactive activities and live entertainment, and this year the festival expanded to include events in Bath and Chew Valley.

With such a variety of festivals taking place across Bristol throughout the summer, the amount of editorial space for previews can be limited, so Spirit decided to focus on gaining strong feature coverage by expanding on the themes and events of the festival.

Spirit pitched this content at a range of publications and helped by our strong contacts at regional magazines we were able to secure features in Clifton Life, Bristol Magazine, Bath Life, Shipshape Magazine and the Bristol Post.

We also secured good online coverage, securing a ‘Bristol Top 5’ slot for festival director Savita Custead and preview on Bristol Culture, as well as a feature on Guide2Bristol. The festival was also featured regularly on BBC Radio Bristol and appeared on BBC Points West and ITV West.

Both the Festival of Nature Wild Weekend and the wider events were a real success this year, being extremely well attended. Community events will continue throughout the summer so visit www.festivalofnature.org for a full listing and more information.

Image credit: Jon Craig Photography

Building momentum for iconic brand

Spirit has been reappointed as the PR consultancy for Haynes Manuals, and will work to publicise new titles and raise the profile of the publishing company across the national, motoring and consumer press.

Over the past six months our focus has been on continuing to build relationships with mainstream national press and so far this year we have generated nearly 300 pieces of coverage including 40 national hits, reaching a total of almost 40 million people.

We recently secured an interview for chairman J Haynes on a BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour panel discussion  on how men offer advice to one another and we also secured a slot on BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans show with founding chairman John Haynes who spoke about his love of classic cars.

One of our most successful titles has been the Heathrow Airport Operations Manual, where we harnessed a range of statistics and photos to secure coverage on Mail Online, The Independent, i, The Sunday Times and the Daily Express.

We hit the headlines with the DIY Wedding Manual at the start of the year, by using fantastic hints and tips in the book to generate coverage on Mail Online and in Hello! Magazine, Wedding Magazine and the Daily Express.

We also developed three films to promote the manual which explained how to make a wedding veil, a centrepiece candle and a wedding invitation to showcase Haynes’ expertise and harness an online audience. Those videos can be viewed here.

Haynes Manuals feature a host of visual content, so we have been focusing on targeting national online sites which have more space to showcase that material and reach an international audience. We have developed excellent relationships with the Telegraph Men’s page, Mail Online, Yahoo! and Mirror.co.uk to help deliver regular coverage.

We are delighted to be entering our fourth year working with Haynes Manuals, and are looking forward to working on some exciting upcoming titles.

Spirit uplifted

We are delighted to announce that we have appointed a new account manager to our expanding team.

Suzan Uzel, a former business journalist, has joined the core team at Spirit after providing support initially in a freelance capacity.

Whilst a business writer at The Yorkshire Post, Suzan covered the movements of all sizes of business, from start-ups and SMEs to major corporates, across a wide range of sectors, as well as providing coverage relating to the overall regional, national and global economic picture.

She was also part of the team that promoted and hosted a range of leading regional business events including The Yorkshire Post’s Excellence in Business Awards and a series of business breakfasts.

Suzan has six years of experience as a journalist, having cut her teeth as a news reporter at the Cambridge News, where she was later promoted to the role of education correspondent, leading on all coverage of the sector, including Cambridge University.

Suzan has a languages degree from the University of Oxford as well as NCTJ-accredited journalism qualifications.

Suzan will be working on clients including the Bristol & Bath Science Park, Invest Bristol & Bath and leading property consultancy JLL.

Caroline Harris, managing director of Spirit, said: “We anticipate that Suzan will be a strong addition to our team.

“Together with her sharp intellect, she brings excellent writing skills, experience across a wide range of business sectors and a strong news sense which will be of significant benefit to our expanding client base.”

Prime Minister visits Science Park

David Cameron chose to host an election rally at the Science Park this month, the latest in a string of events including Ministerial guests, overseas trade delegations and media events, which Spirit has helped broker and promote.

Mr Cameron said: “I’m delighted to be here in this beautiful building at the highly successful Bristol & Bath Science Park. This is a really inspirational new venture, which is already attracting science-related business from all over the world.”

During Mr Cameron’s visit, Science Park chief executive Bonnie Dean was interviewed by the BBC on her views of the value of EU membership to business in the UK. Spirit worked closely with Bonnie to help prepare for the interview, which resulted in live coverage on BBC Points West.

The Spirit team is looking forward to providing support to the Science Park for future VIP visits as its reputation continues to grow.

Changing the face of Bath Road Studios

The Spirit team has been working with London-based Cube Real Estate for the last 18 months to help change the perception of a building still widely known as the former ITV studios, four years after becoming Bath Road Studios (BRS).

To create a sense of community, Spirit has introduced a series of informal networking evenings at The Set, an innovative workspace at BRS, and has created a stronger digital presence.

Recognising that Bristol has a huge number of creative bods south of the river but a lack of local industry networking events, we introduced a series of Set.Socials to provide freelancers, start-ups and SMEs with a platform to collaborate with other like-minded individuals.

The events have been steadily gaining momentum over the last six months, encouraging sharing of skills and ideas but also helping showcase the building to prospective tenants – there are already potential deals in the pipeline from the last three socials alone.

To reach out to the wider creative community in Bristol, Spirit forged a relationship with Bristol Media, with The Set now featuring prominently on the homepage of its new-look website.

Spirit has also been working with Bristol-based design agency, Utopia, to create a brand new website to turn it from a simple online property brochure into something more public-facing, informative and fully integrated. The site was turned around in just three weeks and launched at the most recent Set.Social. You can see it here.

To fully align the digital platforms, we also recommended that the Twitter profiles for Bath Road Studios and The Set were merged, and as a result we have been asked to manage the @bathroadstudios account. We’ve already seen an increase in followers and have been able to engage with people more effectively than before, so watch this space…

Bristol Slide made our Sunday really Special

The Spirit team enjoyed an unforgettable bank holiday weekend handling the media at Luke Jerram’s Park & Slide, a 90-metre waterslide down Bristol’s famous Park Street.

Along with many in the city, we had been following the build-up to the project with considerable interest, so when a twitter conversation a couple of weeks ago turned into a request for help, we really couldn’t turn it down.

The project captured the imaginations of people far and wide – with nearly 100,000 applying to have a ride – and helped underline Bristol’s reputation for creativity and fun.

We’ve worked with Luke on a couple of his previous projects – Sky Orchestra, first trialled at Bristol Balloon Fiesta and later used to launch the one-year countdown to the London Olympics; and the launch of the world’s largest solar chandelier at Bristol & Bath Science Park, so we knew this latest idea had the potential to be big.

Although there had already been considerable press interest in attending – including The One Show and Discovery Channel – we decided to target our contacts at national newspapers, picture agencies and national BBC, to ensure the project gained the media exposure it deserved.

Over 80 press signed up to attend on the day, including regional, national and international media and bloggers, with ten lucky journalists joining the 360 members of the public who got a go on the slide.

Sunday arrived and it was all hands on deck, walking hay bales up and down the hill and laying out the tarpaulin to help build the slide.

The event created a carnival atmosphere, with thousands of people thronging up Park Street and many sporting fancy dress for their trip down the slide, once again proving what a brilliant place Bristol is to live and work.

The press coverage wasn’t bad either…the story ran on BBC Breakfast and the One O’Clock news, as well as featuring on regular bulletins on the BBC News Channel, BBC Points West and ITV West. The One Show were also filming throughout the day for a programme that will be screened this Friday 9th May.

The story made the front page of The Times on Monday, as well being featured in the Telegraph, Independent, i, Sun, Daily Express, and the front pages of the Bristol Post and Western Daily Press. Extensive online coverage included becoming most viewed story on the BBC national homepage and eight UK national websites including The Guardian and Mail Online. International coverage included the Discovery Channel Canada, Washington Post, Buzzfeed, NBC News, Irish Independent, MSN NZ and news.com.au.

Since Luke has given so much time and energy to the event for free, we decided to follow his lead and donate our time to work on Park & Slide through our Community Spirit initiative, which supports local projects that contribute to the life and energy of Bristol.

And of course, Luke returned the favour by giving us a chance to try out the slide which put very big smiles on all our faces for the rest of the day!

See the official Park & Slide video below by @CinematicaMedia and a fantastic slow-mo vid from @WovenFilms.

Image credit – Colin Rayner

Readers to shape local news

Many local newspaper publishers are looking to see more of their content generated by readers as they plan their strategies for the future.

Ian Mean, the new editor of the Western Daily Press, has indicated that readers will become more involved in content generation.

He said: “We intend to harness the ideas and writing power of those readers to help to create content which will make the newspaper and its website a must read every day”.

Other publishers are taking a similar approach, but it remains to be seen exactly how reader-generated content will be sourced and controlled.

Critics will argue that the move will create a legal minefield for newspapers, but others may see it as an opportunity for better community engagement.

Is quality journalism at threat or can the skills and knowledge of journalists and readers be combined to create a better overall product?

We’ll be watching this one closely as publishers start putting their strategies into practice – a greater emphasis on reader-generated content could open up new opportunities for public relations experts in setting the news agenda.

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