Tuesday 20 August 2019

AdLib: Brands switching from social media to traditional press titles, says PR chief

John Saunders with CNN reporter Gina London at the PRII conference
John Saunders with CNN reporter Gina London at the PRII conference

Reputation is the new brand and business owners are again turning to traditional media to ensure messages hit home better, the Irish boss of worldwide PR agency FleishmanHillard (FH) has said.

Addressing the Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) annual conference on the need for authentic communications, John Saunders claimed major clients like AT&T are returning to respected press titles, having over-invested in social media.

Saunders has watched the US presidential campaign with interest. He attended the second candidates' debate in St Louis, where FH has its HQ.

He was struck by the level of hatred in the so-called town hall setting, as the vitriol overflowed. Everyone was "dressed up to the nines". As soon as Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton should be in jail, his fans went mad.

"Trump doesn't have the basics in debating skills, his campaign is not based on much, yet he's still in the hunt - it's scary," Saunders said.

Another agency in the Omnicom group created Clinton's ads. With the big day next Tuesday, Saunders was upbeat and says Clinton should crawl over the line - despite concerns over the email controversy and her being branded the lesser of two evils.

Saunders said Trump's unprecedented reliance on insults and bluster extends beyond the US. He cited Boris Johnson's behaviour in writing for and against Brexit and laughing it all off.

He said people can say what they like about Irish politicians at dinner parties, but unless there's engagement it creates a vacuum which poses dangers for society.

Asked during a Q&A what he meant by creating better ways of communicating, Saunders said in corporate life PR people are conditioned to trade in gobbledygook.

Statements are written for the client's benefit rather than the media. Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary doesn't hold back and while his style may be questioned, he's effective, Saunders added.

With the likes of Trump, we need to be less polite and be prepared to "bury these people". The Donald's offensive and crude behaviour may come back to haunt him by impacting on his tourism brands around the world. In the EU, it takes months before the messaging is agreed, in which time Ukip's Nigel Farage was allowed to win the Brexit argument.

"We need to sharpen our pencil. I'm not the greatest example, as I tend to tell people to get stuffed and create more problems," he added.

Saunders, 57, whose career began in the RTÉ sports department, is FleishmanHillard's fourth ceo in 70 years.

Now a year in the job, he self-effacingly describes his appointment as "brave and a big risk".


* FBD and its creative agency Publicis have parted company. The split follows senior management changes at the insurer first rolled out by the IFA in 1969 as the Farmers Business Development. The news coincides with FBD marketing boss Bronagh Twomey's imminent departure. Last year, FBD dropped its NoNonsense brand, noted for its hare-brained TV ads.

WPP-owned Y&R will now handle FBD. Interim marketing boss Karen O'Neill worked with Y&R on Strongbow while at Heineken International. The post of head of brand marketing and communications was advertised recently. O'Neill, a former PepsiCo executive who operates freelance, is currently on contract with FBD. But it's understood she's not interested in taking on the role full-time.


* Ireland's economy is cloaked in uncertainty after Brexit, a report by iReach Insights claims. One in three Irish adults believe there will be a considerable downturn in the Irish economy following the British vote to leave the EU, while 41pc of the 1,000 people interviewed think it's still too early to say.

When asked if the EU will become stronger or weaker as a result of Brexit, 12pc of adults nationally expressed confidence, but only 7pc of Dubliners. Almost half think the EU is weakened by Britain opting out. If a similar referendum was held in Ireland today, would most people vote to remain in the union?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 73pc believe the Irish would vote to stay in the EU.

When it comes to critical issues facing the EU, the refugee crisis, unemployment and poverty top the list. Of least concern are natural disasters and nature pollution.


* As efforts are made to extend high-speed broadband nationwide, Open Eir has joined Age Action in backing the Silver Surfer Awards for two years.

Now in its eighth year, the event recognises the achievements of older people using technology and the volunteers teaching the IT skills.

Entries for the five categories are open until February 17 and the awards will be presented in March.

Pictured at the launch are Baz Ashwamy and his mother Nancy from Sky 1's '50 Ways To Kill Your Mammy' and Carolan Lennon, managing director, Open Eir.

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