Work in PRogress – Issue 16 – James Watkins

My Work in PRogress this month and the first of 2021 is James Watkins, Digital PR Lead at Impression.

A fellow McFly fan, James not only has great taste in music, but is also a mega talented digital PR, heading up the team at Nottingham based digital agency Impression and recently speaking at Brighton SEO’s online PR show.

This was a brilliant conversation to kick off the first Work in PRogress of 2021, chatting about James’ favourite things about the industry, his biggest achievements in 2020 and goals for the year ahead…

What is your ultimate shower song? (The song you can give a 10/10 Grammy-worthy performance on in your shower on a Saturday morning).

I’m not even ashamed to admit I’m still a massive fan of McFly.

The go-to’s have to be ‘Obviously’ and ‘All About You’. It’s the reminder of my youth that I need at the start of a weekend, if it’s been a long week at work!

What are your top three favourite campaigns that you’ve ever worked on? 

  • Feel Good Contacts’ Airport Delays – this campaign was based on a personal experience of having to catch a flight while extremely hungover so it was great to use this for something positive! From the ideation concept, I had in mind the headline of “why hipster beards could delay your holiday this summer” so it was great to do all of the research and content creation with this in mind to deliver a strong story!
  • Envirobuild’s Donald Trump Amphibian – I need to give Jess Hawkes the credit for the brains behind this but this was the first campaign I’ve been involved in that went viral so quickly. It was my second week in a new job and it was all hands on deck fielding calls from NBC, USA Today and the BBC, which was very cool.

I have to include one campaign from my traditional PR days in here too! 

  • PayPlan and the IMA’s campaign to end the use of imprisonment for failure to pay council tax. The goal for this campaign went beyond just coverage and links, it was to make a real change to those struggling financially in our society to make ends meet. Wales has now scrapped the use of imprisonment, and it’s hope the rest of the UK will do too!

What in your opinion are the easiest topics to ideate around? Which (if any) niches do you think are harder or more competitive to build links in?

I love being able to ideate topics that affect the general population and everyday life as you can apply your own personal experience (like being hungover at the airport!) to them. So things like motoring, food and drink, personal finance and travel I find are easier to spark creativity, both within myself and across the team.

Health and financial services can be tricky ones to think creatively as you often need to strike the balance between creating a great headline, showcasing authority for such serious topics in the right way, and ensuring it’s right for your client’s brand.

What are your favourite things about the industry? What are your least favourite? 

The support across the industry for each other is infectious – everyone (regardless of experience or seniority) is always willing to offer advice and help! There is so much content out there for inspiring new campaigns, ways of working and empowering all of us to do our jobs better, which is something I really value.

I am a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist so I guess my least favourite aspect of digital PR has to be the occasional lack of control!

“When a campaign that you have put your blood, sweat and tears flops it can be really tough, but it’s important to use these experiences as a learning tool for future efforts!”

What were your biggest achievements (personal and professional) in 2020? 

I’ve begun learning Danish over the past few months, which has been great to focus on outside of work! In normal times I’d play a lot of sport in the evenings so having this to practice and develop instead has been really fun – though I still have a long way to go to being somewhat proficient! 

Work-wise, it was fantastic to get involved with Brighton SEO’s Online PR Show in December 2020 – it’s always been an aim of mine to speak at Brighton so I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to do this physically at some point as well. (You can view and catch up on James’ slides here.)

Our team at Impression is continuing to grow and it’s been great to see all of the team continuing to develop their skills and be able to use more and more tactics (thanks to industry advice!) to achieve results for clients. I’m excited to champion this even further as part of the new lead role I recently moved into in October!

Finally, what does being a work in progress mean to you? (Both professionally and personally)

Regardless of how long we have been working in this industry, we all have something new to learn, and I firmly believe that digital PRs have one of the hardest jobs in marketing.

“With new tactics and trends emerging all the time, along with an ever changing news agenda and competition rising all the time, I think all of us need to be a work in progress or risk missing out on the new opportunities available to succeed!”

For me personally, I want to share any worries or concerns with my team more in 2021 and not be afraid to ask for help or a second pair of eyes when needed! 

You can keep up with the brilliant James on Twitter here and Linkedin here.

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