Saffron Shergill is a Digital PR Executive at Impression. The agency has run Digital PR campaigns and conducted thought leadership services for some of the UK’s biggest companies and organizations, including Sass & Belle, Harvey Water Softeners, and Clarins.
They’re a full-service marketing agency that is especially known for its digital PR services. They’ve also won the 2020 UK Agency Awards PPC Agency of the Year Award, the 2020 Best Large PPC Agency in Europe award from the European Search Awards, and the 2020 UK Biddable Media Award.
That’s not even everything they’ve won.
Now let’s talk about Saffron herself. She does plenty of thought leadership and link-building campaigns for all of these clients, all of which contribute directly to her agency’s success.
She also wrote her dissertation on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and is heavily involved in the program at Impression.
Want to get some insights into how to launch some stellar thought leadership PR campaigns for your clients while getting some ideas on how to bring the spirit of CSR to your agency? Be sure to catch today’s podcast.
- [1:48] The thought leadership service
- [3:19] Communicating the value of thought leadership campaigns
- [5:28] Pitching topics that work
- [6:57] An example of a successful campaign
- [8:17] Upcoming opportunities in thought leadership
- [9:37] Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
- [15:46] Tips for launching a CSR initiative at your own workplace
- [17:49] Promoting diversity in the industry
- [22:20] Saffron’s cause
The Essence of the Thought Leadership Service
“We focus on a layered approach to digital PR,” says Saffron. “We love doing really big, creative campaigns, and data-led campaigns. But we also really understand the value of displaying our clients as thought leaders within their own industry.”This requires a thoughtful process and communication with the clients themselves.
“What we often do is discuss what kinds of topics our clients would be interested in talking about. Anything that’s really relevant to the current news agenda. Then we’ll reach out to publications and sectors of interest to them, offering thought leadership articles from our clients.”
Communicating the Value of Thought Leadership Campaigns
Saffron goes back to her SEO roots to help clients understand the value of the campaigns that she’s crafting for them.
“When we take on a client, we really conduct a thorough audit to understand what the client needs. Is it a really high quantity of quality links? Do we just want to focus on quality? What keywords are we targeting? Where are we trying to move the needle? What other KPIs are we looking at? Are we measuring traffic?
That’s how we will come up with a strategy for our clients. They’re really bespoke to what their objectives are and what they’re looking to achieve with us.”
That investigation helps the clients understand the value of the campaigns, their relevance to their industry, and to really demonstrate that they are a spokesperson and a person of authority.
Pitching Topics that Work
Hot takes sometimes have a negative connotation, but when it comes to earning press, Saffron says a client’s hot take on a relevant topic is essential to thought leadership success.
“It’s so competitive. Journalists really aren’t going to fall for us repackaging the same thing they’ve seen before a million times. Chances are, there’s also going to be other PRs who are going up with similar thought leadership angles for their clients.
That’s why we’re really making sure every pitch that we’re putting out there is tied into what’s happening right now.”
She says that while they can lean on things that have worked well in the past, everything has to be really relevant.
“Especially in the pandemic. It all has to have that edge to it.”
One topic she anticipates being hot?
“This ongoing narrative we’ve had for a while: I’m going back to the work, I’m going back to the office.”
It’s been an ongoing narrative, of course, because everyone thinks they’re going back and then don’t, but eventually, that should change.
“I’m expecting to see more of it over the next few months as employees grow more comfortable going back to the office. We’re seeing the hospitality industry in the UK start to open up. We’ve got gyms and beer gardens opening up on the 12th of April. I think there will be many opportunities for hospitality clients to really explore that narrative.”
An Example of a Successful Campaign
These campaigns can even work for local clients. When asked about a successful recent campaign, Saffron brought up a national law firm she works with, as an example.
“One reactive campaign I did recently, for one of my law clients, was to take furlough data and look how this has changed for each industry. We looked at the rise we’ve seen in firms in each sector, furloughing their workers. The client then applies their expertise on this subject as an employment lawyer. We take this data, and we come up with something a little different.”
Corporate Social Responsibility (An Overview)
Corporate Social Responsibility is the idea that corporations have the power and the ability to affect real social change, and the obligation to do so. In fact, there are real business reasons to embrace the practice.
“We engage in CSR from two different angles. We look at the charity side, donating and fundraising, and we do some pro bono work as well. So we might partner with a charity and give them some SEO training or digital PR, or put together a campaign for them. The other side of this is really giving back to our community.”
Impression does much of this by focusing on education and schools within Nottingham, where they’re based.
“It’s something that’s really important to both of our directors. They’re so keen for us to make sure that we’re giving back. We’re really keen to make sure we’re retaining talent in Nottingham and helping our talent thrive.”
She says the leadership team at Impression really does a good job of supporting CSR initiatives when she comes up with them.
“I have some ideas, I put them forward, and then we’ll have a call where we talk about how we can feasibly make this happen.
What’s the timeline going to be? What are the objectives? How are we going to make sure we really see it through to the end?”
Every month the company allocates time to these initiatives, so using the time is never a problem.
Tips for Launching a CSR Initiative at Your Workplace
If you want to start a CSR initiative at your workplace, Saffron suggests first identifying the area you want to focus on.
“Sometimes we can try and spread ourselves too thin. What that ends up meaning is we don’t actually make any physical change, and we don’t end up getting anywhere with our ideas because there’s just too much there.”
She also recommends that you look at what other agencies are doing.
“Is there a charity you want to partner with? Is there a school you can get involved with? What resources are you feasibly going to be able to invest in this?
My advice would also be to really set out a roadmap and to put together a plan, so that when you are presenting it to your directors, or to your managers, that you have something concrete so they can see what your plans are, and where they’re going to end up.”
Promoting Diversity in the Industry
Saffron says that achieving better diversity and inclusion within the digital marketing industry are issues that are really close to her heart.
“It’s something which a lot of people are aware is an issue, and I think that what often happens is that we have this spike in interest and enthusiasm, and a lot of [initial] positive change. Then it trickles off.”
She says it’s still a problem.
“I really don’t want this for the next generation.”
She recently put together a blog post about International Women’s Day to express some of this passion. It listed some concrete steps that Impression is taking to improve equality such as acknowledging the gender pay gap, committing to equal pay for equal roles, using transparent salary brandings and progressions, recruiting better, and more.
“We’re not saying we’re there yet. We’re not saying we don’t have work to do. But what I hope is that by outlining what we’ve done thus far, we can share this with other agencies in the hope that they might adopt some of these methods. Maybe people will give us other recommendations from what they’ve seen on our website. It’s really about working together to make positive change.”
She says that Impression has a layered strategy she would personally recommend to any business.
What's your right now cause?
Right now, Saffron is focused on training the next generation of digital marketers.
“Really making sure that every single agency within digital marketing, every single business, is focusing on inspiring that next generation and really ensuring that the next candidate pool, the next new students that come through are diverse and that everyone understands there’s a role waiting for them.”