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Jeff Smith on the “public care factor”

JP Media team

As Creative Director at JP Media, Jeff Smith is responsible for driving ideas, contacts and generating exposure for the agency’s client roster. He enjoys cutting deals and inspiring his team and clients. “It’s a great gig and I consider myself lucky to be in the position I’m in,” Jeff says. “I’m driven by new ideas, helping brands and individuals achieve what they never thought was possible. I love coming up with ideas and building them into campaigns, but more than that I’m in PR because I like people and conversations that lead to making things happen.” We asked Jeff some questions about the PR biz …

Newsrooms appear to be shrinking and media outlets consolidating. What pressure does this place on PR practitioners, trying to increase their clients’ reach?
I’m learning a lot this year, with JP Media launching a digital arm. The shrinking newsroom places pressure for practitioners to think beyond conventional PR. One of the biggest challenges is navigating the noise and hype of the digital world. PR consultants need to be able to deliver cutting edge campaigns that are less reliant on traditional forms of media. When I say less reliant I don’t mean dismissing traditional, I mean practitioners need to be more versatile and think bigger picture for their clients and digital is a massive part of that.

The shrinking newsroom places pressure for
practitioners to think beyond conventional PR.

You work with some iconic South Australian brands. What are the challenges in that? And are some well-known brands tempted to decrease PR activities because ‘they already have a profile’?
The challenge is that everyone feels an ownership of high profile clients. The upside to this is that often the community cares about what you are representing. This community passion and interest can be cleverly used in times of need and lobbying. Some of our most successful PR campaigns have leveraged this public care factor. It’s when people don’t care, that you have to think of ways to engage.

Jeff SmithYes, I’ve seen a number of big brands decrease their activity to fall back on existing profile. I think this is a real mistake, as brands, no matter what size, need to constantly be working on new strategies to engage their supporters. If they don’t they run the risk of losing their audiences to smarter, more visible competitors. Corporate responsibility is also really important in 2017, and people want to see organisations working with their communities in genuine ways and not just chasing money.

Some organisations prefer short term, project-based PR support. How do you counsel them about the benefits of a longer-term approach?
Not all client relationships are built to last a decade; some great work can be achieved in the short term. It really depends on the client and their needs. I’ve done some great one off campaigns, but I also I’ve worked with some clients over a five year period. The long-term relationship has advantages in that having brand history is a powerful thing. It’s also brilliant to keep building on an organisation’s success, and to have the time to be able to roll out a long term, game-changing strategy. This has happened with Adelaide Fringe, where JP Media has worked with the client on its national and international media strategy to triple Fringe’s media value over five years!

We tell our clients that like anything, you can’t expect miracles overnight, but what we do offer is support, independent strategy and value adding that we believe overtime will contribute to an organisation’s success and perception.

Can you tell us about a campaign you’ve enjoyed working on?
I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done with the Adelaide Central Market. In the last few years we’ve been working on profiling the new era for the Market, and what we’ve seen is a real shift in public and media perception following some tough times for the brand.

People want to see organisations working with
their communities in genuine ways

The Adelaide Fringe relationship is also a real highlight! Over half a decade I’ve been helping drive the ambassador program and have supported in the recruitment of names like Paul McDermott, Julian Clary and most recently Australian-born street artist James Cochran (AKA, Jimmy C). The relationship between a celebrity and brand is really fascinating and really has power!

How do you keep up with media outlets and opportunities – tell us about your media consumption habits.
I spend a lot of time commuting on the train, which means that I can consume more media between 6.00am and 8.00am. I scroll news feeds on Facebook and Twitter. Twitter has become such a good tool for information for me as I follow all the global news sites and influencers. I find that Twitter really cuts out some of the spin of Facebook. Currently I love creative podcasts, which I listen to almost daily. Some of my favourites include Lewis Howes ‘School of Greatness’, The Minimalists, the Tim Ferris Show and Creative Pep Talk. I also still value magazines in my life and regularly read The Monthly, GQ, Vanity Fair and the Smith Journal.

Time for a fun question: Reality TV – love it or hate it?
I have a complex relationship with reality TV! I enjoy shows like Million Dollar Listing as it gives me ideas on how to better negotiate in life and business. I’m not a fan of relationship reality trash – I cringe when I think of people airing their darkest secrets for millions to see!  Keep some mystery alive. It’s a good thing!