My Work in PRogress guest this month is the fabulous reactive PR superstar that is Kate Leach. I really loved speaking with Kate for the first issue back of 2023, where we discussed her love of the Sugababes and Kate’s top tips for anyone wanting to try reactive PR for the first time. Enjoy!
What is your ultimate shower song? (The song you can give a 10/10 Grammy-worthy performance of in your shower on a Saturday morning).
Unfortunately for my partner, it has to be the Sugababes classics: Push The Button, Ugly and About You Now are the ones I can belt out and have on loop constantly (and I’d definitely be getting no awards for my singing skills). They wouldn’t be my karaoke choice though, that would have to be Torn by Natalie Imbruglia – such a 90s classic.
What are your favourite things about reactive PR?
My favourite thing about reactive PR is definitely the fun and enjoyment you get from it. I feel like the opportunity with reactive is endless and (as long as it’s relevant) you can get involved in so many exciting and interesting topics. I’ve become an expert in everything from insurance and DIY to fashion, makeup, stargazing and everything in between – each day is different and that’s the best part. I love pop culture so being able to tie a client into a new show or trend is something that excites me. I talk a million miles an hour and I love being fast-paced and working on different things so reactive PR for me is the perfect strategy – nothing beats the excitement of seeing something break in the news, having a great idea for a client and working quickly to get results.
What tips would you give to someone who’s looking to try reactive PR for the first time?
My advice would be firstly to just enjoy it and don’t put pressure on it. Reactive gives you the freedom to really try new things and if it doesn’t work out – having the ability to switch it up and try something else. Don’t be afraid to suggest something different or trial it out as it’s the only way to learn what will work in the news cycle.
To get started my main advice is don’t overthink it. Start by thinking of current or general topics relating to your client and think about what’s happened to you recently in your personal life or things you’ve spotted creeping into the news. For example, When I’ve worked on car clients before, I think about things that are affecting me when I’m driving like the sun in my eyes during Autumn, or new laws that are being released – basically anything I find out or experience that I never knew before and find interesting. Remember at the end of the day you, yourself as well as your friends and family are all consumers so anything they’re intrigued by or want to read and share is what’s going to work and be of interest to journalists to pick up and promote – so make your stories human.
My other key piece of advice is to always make sure you’re answering a question. Are you helping someone or informing them of something new? Never just rephrase what’s happening in the news. You need to add something different to make your client stand out.
What is your favourite example of a high ROI reactive PR campaign?
The Rise Live team honestly inspire me every day with the results they get and how quick they are to turn stories around. A few of my favourites the team have worked on include making butter and milk go viral when rising costs hit the news late last year and strong thought leadership pieces like finding a niche for a client that then works as evergreen commentary – for example, valuation details from a jeweller every time a celebrity gets engaged or SPF tips during the changes in weather which we can keep using to get consistent results and build brand fame.
More recently we’ve really been focusing on driving sales and ROI with the service (Rise Live) in a short time which has led us to focus on product PR that works harder and brings in high returns. Reactive is all about timing so we aim to build a story quickly to what’s happening at that time to drive high return pieces. We did a story at Christmas by relating the product to Harry Potter which is huge around the holiday season and drove £5k of revenue from just a handful of links, showing that targeting the right audience at the right time will drive more than a link. Dupes are also huge right now as we all look for cheaper alternatives to our favourite products. We’ve been working with Revolution to show their high-quality products that compare to beauty favourites at a great price, we’ve been using TikTok to see what’s trending so we can make sure our strategy is super relevant to their target consumer which has led to sales and product sellouts from the hype we’ve built online.
What examples of reactive PR do you love and take inspiration from?
I love to see people being reactive through social more than anything. Seeing how quickly people can respond to trending topics with memes is literally incredible and that’s what I always want to take inspiration from within PR – thinking differently and most importantly being fast to get the results.
I always admire new ideas too and the work from Journey Further coining ‘Crustaceancore’ for Oliver Bonas after seeing an uplift in demand for sea-themed products was great. As a huge fan of the brand myself (half my homeware is from there) putting them as the trend starters of a theme that runs through their product line was different and really effective.
Working in PR can mean that you have to be ‘always on’ – what are your favourite ways to switch off?
It can be so hard within the PR industry to switch off from the news and I think reactive PR definitely makes this feeling more intense as you’re always looking out for new stories to jump on. We have so many clients to run different strategies for that it can become consuming which is why I really try to break up my day by consuming the news in ways I enjoy – through social media when I wake up, listening to podcasts while I walk and limiting myself to look through publications and trends during my working hours. If I have an idea or spot something in the evening I’ll put it in my notes on my phone then put it away – then I can come back to it properly the next morning to chat through it with the team (and also check if it’s relevant and going to be a good story
I have to say having a dog is the greatest godsend in switching off from work and the news. It forces me to make sure I’m finishing on time or taking proper lunches as I’ll always carve out time for him and put him first (he’s so cute how could I say no?) and a walk is honestly the best way to clear my head and refocus for when I come back or switch off completely at the end of the day.
Finally, what does being a work in progress mean to you? (Both professionally and personally).
Being a work in progress to me means always being open to everything – from the potential of failure and taking risks but always wanting to learn and evolve as well. I’ve been in the PR industry for over 7 years and the digital PR space for 4 and everything has changed a LOT since I first started and I’ve changed with it – that’s the beauty of the industry. I’m always willing to try something new in my professional and personal life because when I’ve changed and grown the most is following something not going to plan or learning something about myself. So just be honest about your experience (whether good or bad) and use it to help your future self with decision-making and helping to guide others.
I feel like the best thing to do is to always reflect to see how you’ve progressed and celebrate your wins too. Save screenshots of your best work, compliments or how you’ve felt after something went right or wrong. Sometimes when I get imposter syndrome or something doesn’t go 100% to plan it’s a great reminder to show you how far you’ve come.
You can keep up with the fabulous Kate on Twitter here and LinkedIn here.