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Views from the top: The PR expert (Graham Brown)

Cracking along at Plaster Creative Communications

It’s not all about getting drunk with editors, you know… those activations aren’t going to experientialise themselves

Who are you?

Graham Brown, founder and managing director at Plaster Creative Communications.

What do you do?

We’re a creative comms team. Our approach has always been to guide all aspects of a company’s brand presence and support them by implementing the elements they need help with, from PR to websites, marketing literature and social media. Our team are all very digitally savvy, and we have in-house designers so we can look at the whole brand.

Where do you do it?

We’re Bristol-based – but with clients all over the world, on any given week you may find one of us in Manchester, London, Dubai or Hong Kong. This summer we’ve been getting muddy/wet at festivals and gigs.

Why do you do it?

I love the people and companies we work with in the live events industry, and the fact that no two days are the same in PR keeps it fresh. The core of all of our strategy and activity is to create business opportunities for our clients. There’s a real passion at Plaster to push our clients’ comms strategies and deliver creative campaigns that improve their brand presence in front of key audiences to make them more profitable.

How did you get started in the business?

Let’s just say my progression from a biochemistry degree to playing in bands, sound engineering and launching the events trade magazine Access All Areas was a journey a careers advisor could never have mapped out! From working on Access All Areas, I got into the DNA of some very talented companies which were great at what they did but appalling when it came telling the world about it. When you see inferior companies doing well because they have the ‘gloss’, you get motivated to help the real talent get the opportunities to win the work.

How has PR changed since you first started out?

It’s unrecognisable from the days of faxing press releases and posting photographs. When I started the core skills were to be able to write in a range of styles, take a good press shot and get drunk with editors! Friday afternoons are no longer considered ‘pub meetings’. We build strategic campaigns to reflect our client’s business objectives. These operate across multiple platforms, whether that is supporting experiential activations, exhibiting, digital and social media or more traditional print media (and still occasionally getting drunk with editors!).

What’s your biggest success to date?

Finding great partners to work with at Plaster. Communications consultancies are so often one or two people, so with Kellie [Hasbury, director], Emily [Burrows, account manager] and Dani [Andres, account director] to have built a team of 16 like-minded people who care about our clients is a key achievement I am extremely proud of.

What’s the issue that never seems to go away?

Team Plaster often come up with more creative ideas than can be achieved with client’s budgets, so our challenge is maximising the exposure of our clients working within a variety of finances and making the seemingly impossible happen.

How does working in the live industry compare to other markets?

There’s a passion in live music and events that you just won’t find if you’re doing the PR for make-up companies or regional healthcare authorities. You have to love it, because the budgets are probably a tenth of other more financially lucrative sectors – and I do, because it’s unpredictably exciting and varied.

Does good (or bad) sound at events have an impact on your business?

Whatever the event, the sound can have a significant bearing on its effectiveness and the enjoyment of people. When we’re organising an event such as a launch we’ll work with our supplier to make sure there is good coverage for speeches or playback across the room. If we’re doing the PR for a concert or festival with dodgy sound you can bet our team are going to be busy dealing with complaints – particularly in this age of quick-fire social media – and we have to support our clients in taking customer concerns seriously by responding promptly in line with clients’ directions. We’re working on a lot of outdoor shows this summer, so being aware of how factors such as licensing conditions or a strong wind can affect the sound allow our teams on site to respond appropriately.

This is #11 of 14 ‘views from the top’ appearing in PSNLive 2016, PSNEurope’s 11th annual analysis of the European live sound industry.