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London’s PR scene from an outsider’s perspective

Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to work in London under the Bell Pottinger Singapore-London exchange programme.

I have many amusing anecdotes from my time here that stem from differences in culture – I will never forget my colleague’s look of horror when I asked her if she was “shagged” one morning. In Singapore the word is used to express extreme fatigue and has no sexual connotation. Whilst my time in London has come to an end, here are three main pieces of advice for anyone else moving from overseas to London.

1. Familiarise yourself with the media landscape

Whilst there are general communication principles that can be applied across markets, the media landscape in each country will have its own differences and challenges. Nuances like “redtops” or the political differences between the Guardian and the Times may be intrinsically familiar to those living in the country, but having grown up in a different media landscape; such subtleties were initially foreign to me. It is imperative that you make a concerted effort to understand the media landscape and the news cycle in a new market; the success of your media campaign depends on this. 

In London, it is easy to make the mistake of fixating solely on national publications like the Telegraph, Times, and Financial Times without taking into account smaller media publications including the local and trade press. However, contrary to beliefs, such media publications often have a huge loyal readership, and coverage in those titles might achieve comparable business objectives to the nationals.

2. Stand out from the crowd 

In London, dealing with a competitive media landscape means that you have to work incredibly hard to make your pitch or product stand out amongst the huge number of emails a journalist receives each day.

Regardless of your workload, it is crucial to do your research on a media outlet and journalist before pitching to them. Look at past articles and the topics they are tasked to cover so that you can tailor your pitch note or press release according to their areas of interest. Although it is not guaranteed that a journalist will be interested in the story that you want to tell if you do your due diligence, you significantly increase your chances of being heard.

3. Don’t forget about Twitter

Twitter continues to be one of the most used social networks in the world. However there are still differences in its usage between the UK and Singapore. Twitter usage in Singapore often spikes during milestone events such as general elections, but when I moved to London I quickly realised that Twitter is used on a much more regular basis, for day-to-day interactions. It can therefore be an invaluable tool for building a brand, even outside of campaign spikes or big calendar events. When thinking about an integrated communications programme, it is good to remember this and adapt accordingly.

These are just a few learnings that I took away during my time in Bell Pottinger London. No doubt there are many more distinctions between the two markets than those I have highlighted above, but I have found that these three principles - persistence; the people; and the willingness to go to the extra mile - have put me in good stead.

Persistence and the willingness to go to the extra mile even when deadlines are looming can make or break the campaigns that you are working on. As the saying goes: talent may win games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships, or rather retainers if you bring it back to PR!

Finally, public relations, be it in London or Singapore isn’t always the easiest job in the world. Your colleagues and your pod mates might be the people you rely most, so learn all you can from them and support them in equal measure. Teamwork is vital, wherever you are in the world.

To those considering working in public relations in London – all the best and I’m sure you will have a whale of a time!

Here is a link to a video where Jayne Teo describes her love of hiking and her experiences of working in London.

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