What can VR deliver for PR practitioners?


CIPR North West’s ‘VR for PR’ event at Holdens Agency in Manchester went down a storm with attendees, who managed to gain some expert insight into the advantages of using the technology and actually experience what it was like using it themselves.

George at Holdens started by introducing the notion that 78% of ‘millennials’ would rather spend their money on experiences than products. Obviously, the use of virtual reality can turn an organisation’s interactions with their publics into a fully immersive experience, whereby they can control 100% of what they can see, hear, feel and do… What other platforms can offer that?

George was then quick to note that VR is also being successfully used within the not-for-profit sector, offering a $1bn difference in donations. Tim Hudson’s team at Cancer Research UK demonstrated its effectiveness in transporting potential donors to their labs through their own VR experience of the Cancer Research labs.

Whilst this was the fun and exciting side of the evening, talk soon turned to cost and whether or not VR can deliver effective ROI for clients and organisations. There are wide variety and costs and prices that organisations can use to deliver VR during their campaigns and George even pointed to examples where organisations had collaborated effectively on these projects to lessen the financial burden associated with the technology.

Tweet VR

It was great to see our fantastic CIPR members discovering and learning about the possibilities this technology can unlock for practitioners. We are an industry that aims to be innovative and at the forefront of technology development, events such as this certainly help us to achieve this.

Look out for more news on a similar event being held in the Liverpool area soon!


Blurred Lines… What is ‘Communications’?


When it came to choosing and researching my dissertation topic this year, I didn’t find it a difficult process at all. There has been one topic weighing on my mind from the outset of my MSc in Public Relations and it was my only choice, as fair as I was concerned. A visit to Prolific North Live confirmed it was probably the right choice.

The age old battles between Public Relations and Marketing professionals over who does what and who does it better, still rage on within the creative industry. Add advertising, digital and many other titles into the mix and let the fighting commence!

However, as I stood at the back of Catherine Turner’s talk on her ‘key thoughts on PR in 2018’ at Prolific North Live, I realised that it’s not just been my concern that the boundaries between marketing and public relations are blurring, it’s actually something industry experts are discussing as well.


Obviously, I may be called out for living in an idealistic world here but is it not the case that all of the aforementioned disciplines seek to communicate with people? Walking around the multitude of stands at Prolific North Live illustrated this to a certain degree. Each stand offered some form of channel that aimed to communicate an organisation’s message to people. Whether that be through the realms of Virtual Reality or Search Engine Optimisation, they all had the same idea at their core.

Obviously, the introduction of ‘integrated’ agencies has seen the merging of these disciplines to some degree, offering a spectrum of services to clients and organisations. Yet, they still separate their ‘PR teams’ from their ‘Marketers’ and their ‘Digital gurus’ from their Creatives’, creating distinct boundaries in the process.

Tweet PNLive

I wish to test and examine the effects of these boundaries in my dissertation. Can a truer blend of our disciplines be effective in delivering effective ‘communications’ or do we require boundaries to distinguish between specific disciplinary responsibilities?

Please, let me know your thoughts on the topic. What are your experiences with integrated communications?

Is W1A true to life at the BBC?


Another great opportunity beckoned for MSc Public Relations students at Manchester Metropolitan University. We got the chance to visit the BBC at their MediaCityUK base in Salford and ask the General Manager of BBC North about their communications operations.

From learning about BBC Radio functions to trying our hand at presenting BBC breakfast, all of us had an excellent time. Fellow student, Mark Carrington, had this to say on what he found most interesting during the visit:

“Having the opportunity to see first-hand how one of the world’s largest broadcasters operates was a great privilege. From seeing how radio shows are produced, to visiting the iconic Blue Peter studios, we were able to see what really goes in to making the nation’s favourite shows.”

The most interesting section of the visit, however, came when Adrian Mills (General Manager of BBC North) sat down with us and discussed the role of communications within the organisation. It was great to hear that the communications team have an input into shaping the strategic direction of the BBC, as well as providing research and insight that informs their content across a wide variety of platforms.

Check out the video below to see what we got up to!


PR Specialisms – Internal Communications…

Presentation Front

Myself and Josh Ramsay were tasked with presenting our thoughts and opinions on the Internal Communications sector of Public Relations to our fellow MSc students and tutor, Wendy Moran.

Firstly, it was great to see the strength and growth of an increasingly important and strategic area of Public Relations for organisations. Its importance as a means of building towards corporate goals, culture and objectives is becoming recognised more and more often, putting it at the front of our chosen profession’s battle for a seat in the upper echelons of organisations.

What was also fantastic to see, were so many experts (CIPR Inside, Jenni Field, Sarah Hall, Rachel Miller, Dana Leeson to name but a few) sharing best practice and advice to the profession and promoting IC’s strategic significance.

After conducting our research, it became clear to myself and Josh that the IC sector is experiencing rapid change due to the digitalisation of the British workforce. However, surprisingly, experts and analysis from Gatehouse reports still note that ‘face-to-face’ communications are still king. It seems that poor adoption rates of social channels amongst employees (43%) is indicative of this.

Presentation Side

Additionally, despite all of the talk about Enterprise Social Networks and Mobile Tools/Apps, IC professionals state that central e-mails, intranets, e-newsletters and videos are still the most frequently used and effective channels. Demonstrating that many IC professionals favour push communications over pull communications still.

Finally, we presented two fantastic, award-winning IC campaigns from Powys County Council and Nationwide that truly demonstrated the power of Internal Communications in a variety of organisational contexts.

With measurable impacts on employee welfare, organisational culture and ultimately financial performance, we became sure of IC’s ability to demonstrate Public Relations’ vital role in an organisation’s corporate planning.


A masterclass in vim and vigour…


When people utter the word ‘Vimto’, it conjures up images of a proud, Northern and local brand that has quenched the thirst of many a Mancunian. Not to mention its wondrous ability to cure numerous bouts of flu when added to boiling hot water.

However, Vimto’s CEO, Marnie Miller, came to Manchester Metropolitan University to provide a masterclass on how Vimto has broken these local confines of a ‘dirty old town’ to conquer the world.


Beginning with her own vim and vigour (5am get-ups to head to the gym are a part of her outrageously busy daily routine), Marnie provided an excellent historical insight into Vimto’s birth in the herbalist stores of Manchester in the early 1900s. John Nichols’ first recipe in 1908 for ‘Vim Tonic’ (later shortened to the famous name we use today) proved a roaring success, leading to the brand’s rapid movement into two manufacturing plants in Granby Row, Manchester and Chapel Street, Salford – where a new residential development, built on the same site, is named after the drink itself!

The most fascinating aspect, however, of Vimto’s recent history, is its bewildering success in the Middle East. During Ramadan, you will find rows-upon-rows of the product on the shelves of every supermarket in countries like Saudi Arabia, where customers seek an age-old family tradition of a sugar hit after fasting for the day. Marnie was clear to point out that choosing a business partner whose values were aligned with Vimto’s has been the key to successful growth in this marketplace. As many a PR practitioner will point out, living your brand’s values makes the communication of these to customers and the rest of the world, much more believable… not to mention ethical. Vimto are clearly reaping the benefits of doing so on an international scale.

Mark Tweet

And it’s not just the Middle East that has experienced the famous Purple Ronnie V.I.M.T.O fever. Development in markets such as Western Africa and Europe has led to the product being sold in 85 countries worldwide. Whilst this has proven to be a great success for Nichols PLC (Vimto’s owners), Marnie ensured the MMU audience were schooled in the ability to market a product in a variety of different ways in order to tailor it to the culture of each of their target markets around the world.

MMU tweet

So, Vito’s success on such a global scale has not only led to amazing financial performances for Nichols PLC, but has also led to a Vimto themed wedding and even the CEO herself signing purple ties for loyal fans.

I think you’ll agree, a fascinating story of success for a revered local brand.


Investigating Business Practice: Week 1 Recap

MMU PR Blog_ IBP RecapThis week was the start of an exciting new module as part of the MSc Public Relations course at Man Met Uni. The Investigating Business Practice module is different to other modules on the Masters course as its a lot more practical and akin to working in a PR agency. Being able to work with a live client to deliver a PR campaign that will be of benefit to them is a fantastic opportunity.

At the start of the course we were put into our groups, a mixture of fellow students who have a range of experience, interests and passions, and then came the exciting part – we were all allocated a live client to work with. Along with the client we were given a short brief about their product or service, our task and contact information.

In our groups we set about finding out all we could about our client and getting in touch to set up initial meetings. We have the next ten weeks to complete research on our clients, their sector, devise a public relation strategy, create engaging tactics and then provide an evaluation framework. Having completed the Public Relations Theory, Strategy and Planning module last term has given us the skills to work with live clients on this module. However the difference with this module is that we now have a responsibility to ensure that our clients receive the best possible public relations strategy in order for them to achieve maximum results with their product/services.

The support we receive from our tutor is definitely a comfort, knowing that we have an expert in PR to help us with any issues we may encounter on the way will no doubt be helpful to us all as we progress through the module.

I’m going to be updating this blog, hopefully weekly, on the latest developments on the project. As we learn more about our clients and develop our strategy I’ll be documenting it here so in the future I can look back and reflect on the learning process, and also to hopefully inspire future students who will be completing the module and prospective students thinking of enrolling on the MSc Public Relations course at Man Met Uni.

Week 1: Initial Briefing

We got together in our assigned groups, and waited to hear which client we’d be working with. All of the clients sounded great and all would have offered us chances to develop skills in different sectors, so we were thrilled to be working with H2O Watch.

After being assigned our client, we all set about researching as much as we good about H2O and what our role could be. Upon discovering some information about the client we made contact with the client contact to set up an initial meeting.

I also thought it would be beneficial for our group to create our own PR identity, therefore we are now Splash PR, Manchester’s premier student PR agency.

So that’s a recap of our first week. I’m looking excited to be working with a live client and with a great group of fellow students on a creative and engaging project.

Here’s to week 2 and our meeting with our client. Subscribe to this blog to get the latest updates.

Mark Carrington




House of Lords: Communication Select Committee

Making the most of opportunities is something I strongly believe in. Opportunities allow us to discover new experiences, meet new people, learn more and develop ourselves. I told myself at the beginning of my Masters to recognise opportunities and grab them with both hands. Today I had another opportunity that has given the chance to share my experiences and to help others.

Last week I received an email inviting me to join a student panel as part of the House of Lords Communication Select Committee, which you can read more about here, which is looking into the future of the advertising and creative industries in the UK.

I was a little apprehensive about the prospect, but also excited to have been selected to share my experiences of learning and working in the industry with the four members of the House of Lords and helping to shape their ongoing inquiry into the communications in the UK.

On the day of the panel I joined two PhD students also studying at Manchester Metropolitan University and together we discussed our experiences within the advertising industry, how our education has helped our development, our thoughts on Brexit and what it means for the advertising industry, and the importance of the creative industries within the UK.

It was not only great to be able to share my story with the Committee, but to also hear from PhD students who have a vast wealth of knowledge and experience about the industry, and to be able to extend my network even further.

The work the Committee is doing is vitally important to enable the UK to continue to be a powerhouse within advertising in a globalised world, and to think that I’ve made a contribution, albeit small, is something I am proud of and encourages me to continue to make the most of opportunities.

Mark Carrington