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Essay: The PR agencies of Weber Shandwick and Becky White (internships)

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  • Published: 2 November 2022*
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1.0 Introduction

The PR agencies of Weber Shandwick and Becky White differ on a multitude of areas. From their backgrounds, the environment the operate within, to the communication methods they use. Through discussing and analysing the agencies, a difference between them is able to be distinguished. By comparing the differences and similarities, it paints a better picture on the types of agencies that operate within the industry. By also discussing the importance of internships from the employers and what the employers expect in return, allows for a better understanding of the ‘internship experience’. The opportunity is often beneficial for both parties in a number of ways and it’s important that employers and interns understand this.

2.0 Brief Background of Weber Shandwick

Weber Shandwick is a public relations firm that was formed in 2001 through the merging of the Weber Group, Shandwick International and BSMG. The firm is a world leading global public relations firm and has offices in key cities across the globe. They consider themselves to be the marketing company built for ‘the era of engagement.’ A time where people are engaging with each other and the brands and issues they about in entirely new ways. Weber Shandwick is focused on media and stakeholder relations, but also about digital communications, social media, brand experience and content creation. They are about engagement, across all channels at all times for their clients (Science of Engagement, 2012).

The company is in charge of some of the biggest brands and organisations worldwide. This is due to the business having teams of staff who are passionate about helping their clients to the best of their ability. They go beyond typical client relationships by developing a deep knowledge for their client’s company and the field that it operates within.

The reason why businesses are attracted to Weber Shandwick is due to the simple fact that they are considered one of the best agencies in the industry. This can be seen through the multitude of awards that they have won, such as: PRWeek Global Agency of the Year & Global Campaign of the Year (2017) and The Holmes Report Global Agency of the Year (2017).

Weber Shandwick has a large presence in Scotland. By integrating within a global network, they are the only international communications agency to have local offices in the three major cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. This allows them to deal with some of the biggest businesses in the country such as Aldi and Northlink Ferries.

Weber Shandwick differs from competitors in a number of ways. They deliver one of the most creative and engaging approaches to a range of business challenges in comparison to their competitors. They apply the most advanced digital insights and techniques on behalf of their clients and offer high quality professional expertise across the whole range of communication and engagement disciplines.

For the future, Weber Shandwick ultimately wants to create value or their clients and their staff to ultimately drive profitable growth. They aim to do this by improving the overall client experience that they offer, providing a brilliant employee experience, empower teams within the workforce to be more proactive and improve quality and hosting events and promoting the key capabilities of Weber Shandwick.

3.0 Brief Background of Becky White PR

Becky White PR was founded in Glasgow in 2009 and works with a variety of clients that are focused on beauty, lifestyle and fashion. Examples of clients include: Sara Hill, Truffle Shuffle and Care Bears.

Prior to starting the business, Becky White was extremely interested in the fashion industry and the aspect of using media relations and influencer outreach. In turn, this was the area she wanted to focus her business on to benefit her client’s needs and being a ‘PR expert’ on this market segment.

Becky was the sole worker until 2011 when she recruited her first member of staff. The company reached its biggest in 2014 with 6 staff members. However, at the start of 2018, she decided to strip the company back to herself, deciding to instead work with freelancers and other business.

At the beginning of starting the business Becky dealt with smaller ‘indie’ businesses. She wanted to represent smaller businesses to start with, as the press were on the lookout for unique products. Since then the market has become very saturated and as such, more competitive. For the future Becky White wants to be less focused on clients around 3the area of Glasgow and wants to go bigger. She believes that the market has changed. In five years’ time Becky would like to be doing consultancy work rather than running a PR business.

4.0 Environmental Analysis of the Agencies

By conducting an environmental analysis, it allows for the impact of strategic decisions to be calculated before they are made. In order to control the impact of these decisions, the macro and micro environment needs to be highlighted.

The Macro environment refers to the indirect and uncontrollable areas which affect an organisation, usually political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal. The micro environment on the other hand refers to the internal areas of the company. For instance, The competition, the organisation itself and suppliers (Oxford College of Marketing, 2014).

By understanding these terms, a better picture of the environment Weber Shandwick and Becky White operate in is made clearer.

The main macro environmental factor that both of the agencies have the most interest in is the demographic landscape. By categorising factors such as age, income, gender, race, ethnicity, geographic mobility, and socioeconomic status, they are good predictors of buyer behaviour and other market related activities in both micro and macro contexts (Andreasen 1966). It is obvious that these factors are areas which the agencies need to consider when producing content for their clients. They need to take these into account when producing campaigns and the strategic decisions that need to be made in order to reach the correct audience segmentation.

The main micro environmental factor that affect both of the agencies is the clients that they have to work with. Ultimately, the clients have the final say on a large part of the strategic decisions that the agencies make. If the client doesn’t want the agency to follow through, they can’t, or they risk the loss of their client. The agencies aren’t considered essential to a company’s workings, if they don’t like the current one they can often find a replacement.

5.0 The difference in competitors of the Agencies

There is a stark contrast in the competitors that Becky White and Weber Shandwick face. Due to the difference in size of organisations, there locations and the type of clients that they deal with, in is impossible to agree that they share the same competitors.

Due to Weber Shandwick being a global company they are much more open to a vast amount of competition. Whilst on a whole they face competition around the world, there is also competitors on a national level. Each office is required to compete with its local competition which can strive from global to smaller PR agencies. In comparison, Becky White has to deal with competition that operates exclusively in the city of Glasgow. These competitors also deal with similar clients to that of Becky i.e. fashion and beauty rather than the corporate clientele of Weber Shandwick.

One of Weber Shandwick’s biggest competitors is Edelman. On a global level, Edelman is Weber Shandwick’s main competitor. The organisation is ranked 1st in the Global Top 250 PR Agency Rankings 2017 (Holmes Report, 2017). With Weber Shandwick placed in 2nd place, the two companies both constantly aim to best each other to be named the best global agency in the world. In terms of the reach in the UK, Edelman only has an office in London, this decreases the range of clients that they could target on a regional level, something which Weber Shandwick acts upon.

In comparison, Becky Whites main competitor is Luminate PR. Another solely run PR business in Glasgow. Similar to Becky, Luminate provides PR and Brand Marketing Solutions to clients from across the UK. Whilst founded later than Becky, Luminate share the same market of clients, fashion and beauty. By operating in the same city and for the same type of clients, both agencies have to compete with each other to get the attention of clients.

Therefore, it is clear that the difference in competitors is vast. Both deal with competitors of different sizes and on different ends of the PR ‘spectrum’. They do not share the same competitors due to differences in the markets that they work with clients from.

6.0 The Marketing and PR communication strategies used by Weber Shandwick and Becky White PR

Being vastly different communications agencies means that two companies offer multiple communication strategies to their clients. Whilst Weber Shandwick is more focused on corporate brands, Becky is focused on lesser known, fashion and lifestyle brands. This leads to a difference of the strategies that they use. However, they do use common methods. Examples include: media relations, consumer marketing, crisis communications, issue management, corporate communication and digital engagement – content and social media and influencer engagement. By offering these range of strategies, the organisations make for an attractive choice over competitors.

6.1 Media Relations

Obviously, the majority of PR companies use media relations as one of their main communication strategies, and Weber Shandwick and Becky White are included. Essentially, media relations is a complex process involving an organization’s media relations strategy, media relations professionals, journalists, editors, and media enterprises (Supa, 2014).

The organisations strive to ensure that the media picks up on a campaign, usually through press releases and advertorials. As they are already well established agencies they usually already have sound connections with journalists and editors. However, it is up them to further build on and maintain these relations. This is usually done by talking to journalists and editors on a regular basis. This is usually done via phone calls, emails and meeting face-to-face. By keeping in touch regularly with journalists/editors, allows for trust to be built between the two parties. This in turn makes it more likely that they will offer ‘first bite’ at future newsworthy releases. Having these good relations provides a huge benefit for Weber Shandwick and Becky White and is essential for fulfilling the needs of their clients.

By having strong ties to media channels gives the companies an immediate advantage over its competitors. Having journalists and editors already linked to the organisation allows for an immediate inroad into getting the media attention that the organisation is aiming to get for its client.

However, due to the introduction of new technologies such as social media and new forms of reaching stakeholders directly, traditional media relations are challenged to adapt to new concepts (Bentele & Nothhaft, 2008). This has changed the landscape and means that PR agency’s need to make sure that their story is ‘newsworthy’. Emerging technologies such as online press rooms, social media newsrooms and specific apps or targeting journalists such as Gorkanna will continue to shape media relations (Callison, 2003). This is something that they have embraced. They have understood the importance of the ‘engagement era’ and the best methods in which they aim to use this platform to communicate effectively.

6.2 Crisis Communications

One of the other communication methods that Weber Shandwick which Becky White does not is crisis communications. Crisis management represents a set of factors designed to combat crises and to lessen the actual damage inflicted. It seeks to prevent or lessen the negative outcomes of a crisis and thereby protect the organisation, stakeholders, and industry from harm (Coombs, 2014).

Weber Shandwick provides this strategy for its clients in order to avoid the potential destruction of their reputation. By rehearsing the potential crisis situations and ensuring the effective action taking during these situations with their clients, Weber Shandwick is able to help in the prevention of escalation of the crisis. Once the crisis has been dealt with, Weber Shandwick helps to develop an action plan that supports the company in regaining some of the trust that was lost of their target groups and partner organisations. By having members of staff on hold 24/7 in case of these crisis’s helps to give their clients piece of mind.

By having effective crisis communications, Weber Shandwick is able to prepare, respond and recover clients from crises when they arise.

6.3 Corporate Communication

Corporate Communication can be characterised as a management function that is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the work done by communications practitioners in different specialist disciplines (Cornelissen, 2017). This is another communication method used only by Weber Shandwick.

Weber Shandwick aims to unlock the value of their clients ‘corporate reputation. This is done by them defining the brand, positioning an idea, telling the clients story, protecting their reputation and measuring what people are thinking about the client’s brand. Ultimately, Weber Shandwick strives to building a strong reputation and a successful business for their clients.

Weber Shandwick Scotland supports enterprises and organisations across Scotland and Europe in a multitude of sectors, including, energy, consumer products, education and healthcare technology.

In terms of the corporate communication services they provide is suited to a variety of clients. By providing services such as strategic council, helping their clients understand their corporate responsibility and sustainability and employee engagement, Weber Shandwick is able to open itself to a wider range of clients.

6.4 Digital Engagement, Content and Social Media

In the wake of democratized content and business satisfying the needs of the digital connected consumer, PR has had to evolve with a new approach. This has required a shift in the strategy, planning, implementation and measurement of PR campaigns (Breakenridge, 2012). Weber Shandwick and Becky White PR are no exception and they aim to create targeted content in order to ‘speak’ to audiences that their clients aim to target.

By continuously monitoring the digital channels of clients, the two agencies are able to help the client to identify with audiences. They use some of the best tools available to capture, track and quantify brand mentions and valued topics in real-time from social and traditional media channels. By offering counselling to clients and helping them to adjust to the changing media environment.

The agencies aim to building a community for their client, by rewarding these people and providing informative, fun and entertaining content in order to keep advocates engaged with their client’s brand over time.

6.5 Influencer Marketing

One communication method that Becky White PR focuses on more than Weber Shandwick is Influencer Marketing. Using influencers, typically on digital platforms, allows for the possibility of causing effect, changing behaviour and driving measurable outcomes online. Influencers form strong unions with their like-minded followers within social networks and through valuable and meaningful interaction are able to possess the capacity to influence these followers on a variety of factors (Solis, 2012). Due to the sudden rush in ‘nobody’s becoming somebody’ as a result of the rise in popularity of social media, there is arguably more influencers now than ever before.

Influencers, depending on what they are known for i.e. fitness, can be perfect matches for Weber or Becky’s clients brand that they are trying to promote. This can be useful for targeting specific niche audiences that may be harder to engage with otherwise. In some ways it could be argued that influencers are ‘brand ambassadors’. It is essential that the agencies fully understand the following that these influencers may have in order to identify the best suited influencer for their client.

Influencers can be encouraged to share content with their followers through multiple methods. Most of the time bigger agencies such as Weber Shandwick will pay the influencer a large sum of money to guarantee them to produce content for their followers. However, for smaller agencies, such as Becky White that don’t have the same budget, they have to rely on other methods. Becky White often has to build a strong trust with her influencers. She currently has a large number of influencers she has worked with over a number of years to build these strong relationships and often simply sending these influencers an item will lead to them sharing it with their followers.

7.0 Importance of Internships for Employers

It can be argued that many businesses who do offer internship programmes have much to gain from them. Businesses worldwide have embraced internship programmes due to them realising the importance of offering them.

Perhaps one of the main reasons for the importance of offering an internship is the ability to identify and, in turn, develop future talent for the organisation. The ability to take on an intern and train them in the workings and methods of the organisation saves on the risk of recruiting new staff. Indoctrinating potential future employees into the company’s approach to things allows for financial savings that might come from reduced recruitment and training costs that arise from employing the intern after their internship has ended. (Sullivan, 2003: Gault et al, 2010). There is plenty of evidence that shows that many businesses go on to employ those who have previously worked for them as interns, with around one-third of UK businesses employing an intern (ACCA, 2016).

As many organisations are keen to attract young, future talent, forming links with local colleges and universities through internship programmes can help not only to raise the profile of the business, but make them well known among students at these premises. This in turn could entice them to apply for an internship position.

8.0 What do the organisations expect from the intern?

Whilst many companies realise the importance of allowing interns into the workplace to take part in placement, many interns themselves forget about what the organisation expects from them in terms of how they strive towards learning about the organisation and the industry it works in.

Kelley and Gaedeke’s (1990) investigation of employers’ and students’ perception of the relevant importance among hiring criteria found several career preparation skills to be significant: oral communication, written communication, problem solving, analytical skills, computer applications and leadership/teamwork skills. It is therefore important that the intern understands what the employer expects of them in order to work to their satisfaction. By striving to learn these skills while on the experience could potentially place the intern in good stead for future career employment.

There are a multitude of elements that can aid in the learning process for interns in their working environment, for example: learning by observation, learning through practice, learning through feedback and self-reflection, and building up contacts and networks.

It is also important that students embrace the period spent on their placement. There are many ways in how this can be done by “…maintaining a good attitude to the placement…welcoming new experiences… honing current skills and developing new ones.” (Fanthome, 2004). By using this approach towards placement, students will be able to make the most of their time there. It also builds on the esteem that others within the company may have towards them, which could prove to be important for future career paths and the possibility of employment from the host company.

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