That’s pretty much that, then. No sooner had we finished our first planning meeting of the year we began our last. Or so it seems. Sort of.
Another successful 12 months has passed for Smoking Gun PR, and our most successful yet to say the least. From exponential growth in team numbers- for both junior and senior positions- to attracting a swathe of stand out brands and businesses to our client fold, we’ve come a long way since January.
Outside our headquarters here on Manchester’s Bridge Street it has been something of a mixed bag. 2014 was scored by tragedy, from missing planes and Eastern European political crises to Ebola, the Islamic State, police shootings and widespread civil unrest in America. Meanwhile, on British shores, the problems have come so thick and fast it’s anyone’s guess who will be in power come May 2015.
Not that it has all been bad news. The UK is still a whole thanks to a Scottish ‘No’ vote, and the economy is back on the growth track. Meanwhile, it wasn’t too long ago that we were all basking in sub-tropical temperatures, ensuring those that didn’t get away during summer felt less like they were missing out. A game of two halves, and not just because of the Brazilian World Cup, nevertheless from a business perspective there’s plenty worth shouting about, and as such we decided to wrap up the calendar with some highlights from the last 50 weeks.
Take a look and see what you remember…
The Social Media Year In Brief
Twitter’s 2014 can be succinctly described in the following trends: Microsoft (X Box), Taylor Swift, Taco Bell, Starbucks and Walmart. Not forgetting #ImHappyBecause #ALSIceBucketChallenge, and Netflix thanks to House of Cards.
Facebook’s year saw organic reach all-but die as paid-for promotion became the priority. Ebola was the most talked about topic, and the deaths of Robin Williams and Phillip Seymour Hoffmann also feature on that list. Along with the Ice Bucket Challenge, Brazil’s World Cup, and events in Ferguson, Missouri.
LinkedIn hit 300million members, with 41% of those boasting more than 500 connections. Only 16% have a paid-for profile, though. It also became a bonafide publishing platform by opening up blogs to anyone who wants to write.
Google+ shocked naysayers by not closing down. 29% of ‘Generation Z’ visit the network each month, the biggest demographic, followed by 28% of millennials. And the platform scored 71 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Smoking Gun’s Year In An Infographic
Successes, failures, embarrassments and achievements in the media – month by month
The year got off to a flying start. Best Social Media Campaign, Best Use of Research, Best Consumer PR Campaign, Best Media Relations Campaign and Small Agency of the Year nominations at the Golden Hedgehog Awards are all testament to that. Not to mention Linco Skin Care, Support Adoption For Pets and Good4U; brands that all signed on the dotted line for our public relations expertise.
In less positive news, Silicone Valley workers had their journey to the office hindered by street protestors in San Francisco, the BBC unveiled plans to commercialise its World Service, and McDonalds topped the list of Most Hated Companies In America. Still, we can’t all be winners.
As winter threatened to become spring we welcomed Paint By Conran, Terence Conran’s exclusive line of luxury matte and gloss colours, and worked alongside Squad, Manchester Airport, Manchester City and Manchester United in a campaign to support Wythenshawe FC, which was struggling for survival.
Away from our desks, the Sochi Winter Olympics fell foul of PR catastrophe amid reports of wild dogs roaming the streets and unfinished buildings in the park. BrewDog took on Putin by way of a new pro-gay beer, South West England was submerged, acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died, and a Chevron oil plant exploded in the U.S.
As Easter approached our chickens came home to roost, with a Golden Hedgehog gong for Best Small PR Agency (the second year running we took the title), and another nomination for Best Small PR Agency from Prolific North.
This month also saw Vice.news launch as a standalone ‘serious journalism’ channel, which we immediately fell in love with. Less positive was the Malaysian Airlines flight that vanished from the sky, Turkey’s decision to block Twitter, and Britain’s GDP for the final quarter of 2013 being downgraded.
We cleaned up in April with Persil Washing Up Liquid’s Cook With Kids Campaign, and helped Silentnight achieve a 53% year-on-year rise in traffic to its website thanks to the award-winning Sleep Clinic campaign. But nobody celebrated when UK Freedom of Speech slipped in the Freedom House league table.
Ringing in change, Smoking Gun jumped ship from Quay Street to our current lovely home here on Bridge Street, preparing for consistent expansion in the months that followed. Setting the tone was the arrival of Georgia Robson as a permanent member of staff, who, along with Account Director Louise Woodward, ran the 10K Manchester Run in aid of charity. Fast times, we also won Best Small PR Agency at the Prolific North Awards, Nigel Farage got egged, and Orange called one of its customers ‘pathetic’ in a text message regarding an unpaid bill.
In a standout month for everyone here, we created a ‘Tunnel to Barbados’ for Virgin Holidays, smack bang in the centre of Manchester’s Spinningfields district, rejoiced as kitchen giant Magnet Trade asked us for PR assistance, took on the lovely Kineta Kelsall as our latest recruit, and tasted another pitch win when Flava-It decided we were the best agency in the running to meet its media needs.
Sadly, England couldn’t achieve similar results in the Brazil World Cup, and prices on Tesco Finest products were replaced with messages about how badly staff are paid in a controversial protest move. Not good for PR. At all.
This month we took on The Horticultural Trade Association as PR client, along with Provident Financial Services. Two fantastic names to say the least. We also remember pop star Professor Green erasing his 54,000-tweet-strong timeline in a bid to ‘start over’ on Twitter, the Mail apologising to George Clooney, George Clooney refusing to accept an apology from the Mail, Nestle trying to buy Third World water sources, and UK GDP surpassing its pre-recession high.
As Britain enjoyed a thoroughly deserved heat wave we were working up a collective sweat on stand-out campaigns for several clients, and preparing for the post-summer slog. At the same time, people boycotted Garnier for sending beauty packs to Israeli soldiers amid the Gaza nightmare, Thermos scored a coup by proving it could ship flasks of coffee overnight and the recipients would still get a hot drink in the morning, Steve Martin turned 69, Robin Williams passed away, and Facebook began labeling satirical stories with the helpful tag ‘Satire’.
Warm weather continued, and we opened our beautiful roof terrace looking out on Manchester’s ever-changing skyline. The city’s Publicity Association also came in to help our staff gain a better understanding of best practice, and we went down to London Town for Social Media Week. Outside the window, BBC strikes were averted in an eleventh hour deal, and Scotland decided it would stay in the United Kingdom after all. Hooray!
Summer faded into the distance but our sights were always set dead ahead. Holt Lloyd International procured our services for its Holts Professional and Prestone financial product ranges, Hayley Peters and Tally Thompson joined as Senior Account Director and Account Executive respectively, and a new pan-European campaign began for Mountain Hardwear wherein we built a Facebook App to promote our favourite outdoor clothing brand.
In contrast, David Cameron taught everyone how not to speak in public by accidentally stating his party ‘resents’ poor people, and Ebola landed in America.
The nights began to draw in, depressing many people. But, instead of getting ourselves down in the dumps, we were over the moon at being given the contract to work publicity for another of Provident Financial Service’s brands, GLO, capping off that win with gold CIPR Awards for Best Event and Best Use of Photography, and silvers in Consumer Relations and Digital.
Germany marked the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling, and not just with a national rail strike, Russell Brand found himself trending on Twitter for the wrong reasons (“PARKLIFE!”), Uber threatened journalists’ privacy, and Ukip mistook Westminster Cathedral for a mosque.
In recent weeks we’ve said goodbye to our longest-running member of staff, Ben Ormsby, launched another recruitment drive (see our Jobs page for details), asked clients and contacts to take festive pictures for charity by way of our #Yulelove campaign, and still found time for a mulled wine. Or two. Quite a year then, to round it off in such fine style is something we are immensely proud of, meaning it’s onwards and upwards as we prepare to flip the calendar over once more.