As Gumtree's UK PR manager, Thomson specialises in long-term strategy, campaign execution and brand integration through marketing and social channels. When not working, Thomson is an ultra-runner, part-time cyclist and faltering speaker of Japanese.
How do you define PR today?
People often say that PR is changing. It isn’t. PR has always been about managing reputations through interesting stories and meaningful conversations. What has changed is the channels through which we tell these stories. It’s up to us to find the correct channel to communicate with our audience. But our job essentially remains the same: manage our brand’s reputation.
How has social media rewritten the ways you do PR and interact with the media?
Communication has become shorter. We’ve learned to tell stories within 140 characters, often fewer. This guarantees pithier stories which, in many cases, stand more chance of getting noticed. Journalists famously despise phone pitches and their email boxes are jammed packed with generic press releases. Twitter has become the preferred channel for news pitching and at Gumtree.com, we have plenty of examples of landing great stories that started with a tweet.
If you had one recommendation for those looking to set up social media in their PR, what would it be?
Educate from the top. There is still a fear of social media which comes from a lack of understanding. Demonstrate the value of social media to your senior team first. Once they understand its potential for good within your business, you’ll have their support.
What would your top three tips on engaging and interacting with your audience be?
Use common sense
Be open, honest and direct
Be authentic. Be human. Be your customer.
What session, other than your own, are you most looking forward to at Social PR Strategies?
Cows On The Line – A social approach to challenging situations, with Nicola Clark, head of marketing and communications at Chiltern Railways.
There’s no magic formula for good crisis comms, each case is different. Learning from your peers is the best way to equip yourself for issues management.