My Work in PRogress guest this month is the wonderful Amy Walton, who is the Head of Content at Screaming Frog.
It was fab to talk to Amy as she shared her top tips for switching off in an always-on industry, the one publication she’s yet to land a link on, and what being a work in progress really means to her…
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)
Love on Top by Beyonce, but I absolutely murder it each time.
What are your three favourite campaigns EVER?
- The Naked Truth by The Pudding
This will always be a campaign that I kick myself for not thinking of. It’s so simple yet so effective, looking at how beauty brands name and number their foundation shades.
It shows us just how obvious unconscious bias is in the beauty industry through clever uses of data viz techniques. A content (and beauty) nerd’s dream.
So, this is a campaign I was involved in at Screaming Frog a few years back, but I’ve picked it because it always makes me laugh when I think back to the crazy few weeks we had outreaching it. We managed to cause a bit of a stir in Hollywood from our desks in little old Henley-on-Thames – it blew my mind!
After a slow start, the LA press got wind we had crowned the Hollywood Walk of Fame as the world’s most overrated tourist attraction, and they were NOT happy. But luckily, Jimmy Kimmel had our back and did a segment on his show defending our rankings. It was just a shame our client was described as “a prominent travel website we’ve never heard of”. Oh well, you can’t win them all! We did manage to secure over 200 pieces and 100 links though by the end of it.
I’ll also use any opportunity to get just one more link
- Netflix Spoilers (not by Netflix)
There are so many great examples of PR pivots in 2020 when brands (and their agencies) were faced with marketing responsibly during the emergency phase of COVID-19. One of my favourites is the Netflix spoiler posters – a campaign Netflix, it turns out, had nothing to do with. It was actually a fake campaign created by two students at an Ad School in Hamburg, designed to put people off from leaving their homes during lockdown by spoiling the plot lines of the biggest Netflix shows. Netflix didn’t mind though; it was free PR for them and went viral.
Here’s how one of the students summarises the campaign: ““The best way to stop the spread of Covid-19 is to #staythefuckhome, but some people still think it’s okay to go out and chill, spoiling it for us all, so we took an extreme measure: we spoil their favourite Netflix shows.” Just brilliant.
What publications would you love to secure a link on/ are top of your dream links list?
I’m lucky enough to have landed links on most nationals during my career in content and PR, but BBC News Online is the thorn in my side. It’s a myth the BBC doesn’t link – you just need to have the right brand with the right story. The stars haven’t aligned for me yet!
The industry we’re in often requires digital PRs to have a thick skin, and also to be “always-on” in order to spot opportunities for campaigns and coverage. How do you manage your mental health while working in the industry, and what are your fave ways to switch off?
I think a thick skin in PR comes with years of experience when you realise you can’t be in control of everything. Even if you have 100% confidence in a campaign, it can still flop or underperform against what you expect. What matters is that you’ve tried everything you can as a team and don’t get demotivated by it.
It really grinds my gears that some journalists are abusive towards PRs and social media can be a particularly toxic place. Some journalists just have a vendetta against PRs no matter how good your content is. My advice is to never take it personally, and if there is anything you can take away or learn then do. You’ll become a better PR because of it.
To help me switch off from the madness of digital PR, I make sure to shut my laptop away at night and not log in to Slack, Twitter or work emails on my phone.
It can be pretty hard to switch off out of hours when news and culture is all around you, 24/7. I’d say do always keep your eyes and ears open as you never know where the next big idea could come from, but don’t try too hard to find it, otherwise, you’ll burn out.
Those who know me know that I find it hard to sit still for too long so I find taking regular short breaks away from devices (even if it’s unloading the dishwasher or making a cuppa) really helps me reset and think clearer. I always make sure to get outside before work or during lunch, followed by another walk, run or paddleboard in the evenings.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out in the industry?
It’s a hugely rewarding industry for those with the passion and drive to succeed. And you don’t need to have years of experience under your belt either to get great results for clients. When I started at Screaming Frog four years ago, I had zero PR experience but when the team here gave me a chance (many others wouldn’t give me an interview!), I was able to prove myself. Fast forward to today and I’m Screaming Frog’s new Head of Content!
I’ve certainly found that because it’s such as fast-paced environment, what content does and doesn’t do well is constantly changing. So, if you have an eye for trends, can visualise or communicate concepts in a creative way, and keep your ideas agile if something doesn’t work the first time, then you’ll progress quickly. Be confident in what you think, always go with your gut, learn from failures and don’t be afraid to take risks.
Finally, what does being a work in progress mean to you? (Both professionally and personally).
As I’ve got older (I celebrated the big 3-0 a few months ago), I’ve realised that “adulting” is pretty much making it up as you go along.
In my career, I’ve been successful because I’m honest with myself and my team – just because you’re a manager or head of something doesn’t mean you know it all. We all work hard, listen to and learn from each other and motivate one another. I think keeping an open mind and learning from each experience are the most important things because PR and marketing is always evolving.
Personally, it’s only in the past year or so that I’ve truly understood who I am, what I enjoy and what I care about the most. Getting married and buying our first home as helped with that process, but the pandemic also accelerated that process for me. For all its challenges, I think it gave us all the time and space to reflect and work on ourselves which we should look back on and be grateful for.