Notts PR 50

Steve McComish, London PR

London PR, a Nottingham-based national PR and communications agency, is marking ten successful years in business by launching a new division focused solely on the East Midlands – giving local businesses the chance to benefit from national media coverage. Stephanie Robertson, our Communications & PR Manager, went along to find out more from Steve McComish, the man behind London PR…

Steph says:

Steve is the only Nottingham-based PR professional to be named as one of the 100 most influential people in UK public relations by trade bible PR Week, but the former Nottingham Post and Daily Mirror journalist is pretty humble when it comes to his achievements…in fact, he hates being interviewed. Luckily for me, we found lots of common ground to bond over, including a love for 80’s band The Smiths and the pros and cons of going vegetarian. From there, we soon got to talking about London PR, Steve’s career as a journalist and how PR has change in an age of social media, Buzzfeed and fake news.

So, you started off as a journalist?

Yes, I began my career at the Nottingham Post after doing a degree in Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University. I had a few jobs first, including working for a local authority, and then decided to sign up for National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) training at the Post. That was way back in 1996! After a few years at the Post, I went to the Daily Mirror in February 2001.

What’s the biggest story you’ve worked on?

It would have to be 9/11. I’d only worked at the Mirror for a few months before it happened. They closed the paper’s London offices at Canary Wharf as a precaution and we all went up to Manchester to get the paper out.

What inspired you to switch from journalism to PR?

I worked at the Mirror for around six years and while I was single, I loved it. It’s a great life going out and about covering stories and meeting loads of different people. But by 2007 I’d got married and had a family and being away from home wasn’t so fun anymore. So, when the chance came to take voluntary redundancy, I grabbed the opportunity to move on and do something new. I’d been the Mirror’s Midlands Correspondent for a couple of years, so I was already based back in Nottingham. Now, the choices were: go back to regional journalism, move back to London to another national or do something for myself. That’s when London PR was born.

Why London PR when you’re in Nottingham?

I often get asked that question! I started off as a freelance PR and from there started a company called Pressman PR – after the fact I was a press man. I liked the name but it didn’t do very well in online searches. Around that time I was beginning to learn more about SEO and an expert advised me to include Nottingham in our company name, as it was a common search term in search engines like Google. It got me thinking, and I thought, why not go for London then…it’s an even bigger search term. It worked and the phone started ringing off the hook. I also think London PR gets across the idea that regional businesses can get a national PR service from an agency based right here in Nottingham…you don’t have to go to London these days. The name was inspired by something practical, but I like the way it’s evolved into something more quirky, something with a twist.

Tell us more about your new project NottsPR.com?

We work nationally with clients all over the country but we’ve never really shouted about ourselves closer to home. NottsPR.com is a way to let people know we’re here and also offer businesses the benefits of national media coverage – by working with an agency on their doorstep. As well as PR, we offer a range of complementary services including social media management, so we can help businesses with everything they need.

How has social and digital media changed the PR world?

It’s changed the way people relate to you as a brand or business completely – because through social and digital media, people are now interacting with you all the time. It’s important that businesses manage that, and that’s where we come in. Plus of course, information is now shared fast very fast and stories can spread in seconds – which comes with pros and cons. One thing that doesn’t change is the buzz you get when a great story catches fire…it may not be my name on the byline anymore…but it’s still the same feeling of achievement…the feeling ‘we did that’.

Is it still a case of ‘hold the front page’?

One of our clients described it really well…he said it would be great to get a big story in a national newspaper, as a talking point and something to hang on the office wall, but what would really help his business is a link from a national media site to his business. That sums up just how powerful digital media is these days, with links from globally popular websites like the BBC worth their weight in gold. For us, digital media relations is all about amplifying the message – to help businesses reach much bigger audiences and get great results. The platforms may have changed, but the core of our business hasn’t. Great PR is still based on great news sense, from finding the best angle for a story to pitching your message just right.

How is fake news making an impact?

It’s definitely having an effect, but it’s not just fake news that’s an issue. Many media companies don’t have the resources they used to for fact-checking, or the budgets, so it’s easier for inaccurate news to get into the public domain. The rise of sites like Buzzfeed have also changed things, with news sites under pressure to replicate that kind of style and content. It’s a very competitive world out there these days and media companies are competing for people’s attention more than ever before. People don’t necessarily distinguish between sources – if they’ve read it online it must be true. That’s why it’s really important for PR companies to have a strong news sense and check their facts carefully. That’s something we really pride ourselves on – our high standards of integrity. It’s also made me really value independent organisations like the BBC – we should cherish and support those kinds of organisations.

London PR is based at Antenna in Nottingham’s Creative Quarter and has been working with clients across the UK since 2007. Find out more

To find out more about the company’s new venture for local businesses visit nottspr.com