Public relations agency staff in office bar
Public relations agency Tank offers employees flexible working and an early finish on Fridays for a drink in the office bar. Credit: Tank

Public relations (PR) is in high demand following the growth of online media. 63% of PR agencies had vacancies in 2022 according to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and further research found an estimated 71,100 PR professionals working in the UK in 2022 – a 15% increase since 2021.

The third highest ranking agency in the Midlands, Tank based in Nottingham has certainly had a taste of this growth. With 12 new roles created in 2022 and the launch of a digital PR service, the agency is a prime example of the expanding PR sector.

The agency brings together key services across PR, digital PR, content, search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media to drive brand exposure and growth for their clients including Experian, Affinity and Dixons Carphone.

Founded in 2010 by owner Trevor Palmer, the agency describes itself as a ‘PR-led digital marketing agency.’ The team is made up of journalists, social media experts, PR professionals, SEO consultants and marketers who combine traditional PR strategies with the latest digital services.

Digital PR  

Digital PR account manager in PR agency office smiling into camera
Digital PR account manager, Cormac Clarke opted for a career in PR after studying broadcast journalism at university. Credit: Humairaa Habib

Tank launched digital PR as a service in late 2021 and a year later they were nominated for two awards at the Global Digital PR Awards and the UK Search Awards.

Cormac Clarke, digital PR account manager at Tank, says, “That was a big achievement, we didn’t win unfortunately, but we took stock of the fact that a year ago this team barely existed.”

The team now has seven members including a data analyst. Working alongside the SEO team they aim to improve their client’s online presence and boost website authority through link building, online PR and content campaigns.

“We’re probably the fastest growing team within the business and it’s clear that the demand is there,” Cormac says.

As brands strive to be seen online, ranking in search results and standing out in a competitive online market is key to profitability, he adds.

“Working with services like SEO, digital PR can play a big role, the results are better when the two services work together as many of the KPIs and goals are the same.”

Working to get linked media coverage in national or specialist publications by pitching ideas to journalists can be tough in a competitive market.

Cormac, 24, says, “It’s more difficult than it was, journalists get thousands of emails a week, your content needs to be better, and your data collection must be spot on. As an industry, we need to keep evolving and staying one step ahead.”

One of the ways they stay ahead is through reactive PR, by researching trends and preparing statements, the team are ready to get their clients coverage in the press.

Cormac says, “Keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the news agenda is crucial, Twitter is useful and the hashtag journo request for this.”

The team has proven successful when creating digital PR campaigns for clients such as Creditfix. They created a Christmas Lights Calculator and got links in Sky News, Metro and the Daily Mirror which led to 60+ referring domains with 87% follow links.

While campaigns can boost a brand’s online presence to a mass audience, things don’t always go to plan. Cormac says, “Not every campaign gets the uptake you’d expect, and it can be disheartening if you put time and effort into it. You need to learn to pull yourself out of that and see what learnings can be taken from it. How can that campaign be tweaked for greater impact?”

SEO

Digital account manager, Jake Cassedy at public relations agency office bar
Digital account manager, Jake Cassedy hopes to become a speaker at the Brighton SEO conference. Credit: Jake Cassedy

Research by Bridge Edge found that 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine. It comes as no surprise that businesses are competing to get to the top of search results to promote their products and services.

“SEO is growing in popularity all the time, it’s important if you want to be found online which is essential for all businesses,” says Jake Cassedy, digital account manager at Tank.

Tank offer SEO which is PR-led, the combination designed to keep readers hooked and Google satisfied. Keyword strategies, web and mobile optimisation and site speed improvements are some of the SEO techniques they use to boost website authority and improve rankings.

SEO can be difficult for beginners and requires a good understanding of technical knowledge and how search engines work. Jake, 27, specialises in SEO and used online resources and completed courses in the early stages of his career to build knowledge.

He continues learning by attending events such as Brighton SEO and staying involved in the SEO community on social media. He says, “Publications such as Search Engine Land or Search Engine Journal share the latest announcements or insights and Google have got Google Search Central which is their blog.

“I follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn, when there’s a big algorithm update, they’ll Tweet and usually have an article that goes along with it.”

Keeping up to date with changes and trends in the industry is half of the job. One of the biggest changes in the industry in 2022 was artificial intelligence (AI) supercharged by the launch of ChatGPT.

With Google set to rollout their Search Generative Experience, an AI chatbot incorporated into Google Search, the impact on SEO will be inevitable as users will get their search queries answered directly instead of a list of website links.

While Jake doesn’t believe AI is yet at the stage to replace quality writing and understanding audiences which are key elements of SEO, he recognises the importance of embracing change.

He says, “There’ll be loads more changes to come and you need to stay ahead of those trends and work with them, when updates come rather than fighting against them, adapt to that change.”

Social media

social media manager at public relations agency on laptop smiling into camera
Stuart Tongue, social media manager at Tank learnt how to use TikTok through posting videos about books. Credit: Humairaa Habib

Businesses have recognised the value of social media in their marketing strategies to connect with consumers, increase brand awareness and promote products or services.

The UK had 57.1m active social media users in January 2023, so keeping up with trends and understanding what audiences want to see can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Social media manager at Tank, Stuart Tongue says, “A big part of our job is staying on top of the latest trends for our clients, not only in terms of social media, but also their wider industry.

“Google and Talkwalker alerts are useful tools to monitor particular trends that may impact your client and these can be set to alert you straightaway if new and relevant content appears online. There’s also a lot of reading of trade publications and news sites that are designed for specific industries.”

The team use social media in-built analytic tools as well as software like Hootsuite and Google’s studio report which rates engagement through likes, comments, shares and impressions. While social media is most certainly a creative role, the technical aspect is often overlooked.

“We have to spend time analysing what people are reacting to and if content doesn’t get the anticipated traction, you have to find out why and re-strategise. There’s a lot of analysis,” says Stuart.

Social media platform, TikTok has become a focus in many businesses social media strategies as the fastest growing social media platform with a 100% user growth rate between 2020 to 2022.

Stuart, 28, a self-confessed TikTok addict was initially apprehensive about the app, he took to the platform and posted his own videos to learn how to master it. When rolling it out in Tank, he says, “It was important for the team to be on the app and using it for themselves. If you aren’t an active user, then I don’t think you can be in a position to advise a client effectively. It means you can offer guidance from genuine experience.”

As the social media team at Tank continue to expand its organic and paid client base, Stuart doesn’t think AI will replace good social media posts or jobs.

He says, “It doesn’t replace the human brain or people that know how to do strategy, it’s good if you’re in a pinch but the more people who use it, the more similar strategies and content are rolled out across different businesses, which has a massive impact on authenticity and a genuine brand voice.

“Users want something natural, not manufactured.”