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Gemma Sowerby

Published on

September 11, 2018


agency life, culture, PR

As PR professionals, we pride ourselves on having our finger constantly on the pulse of what’s happening in the world. From the latest political news to stock market fluctuations, we must always be up-to-date with the most important events. And what’s more important than the return of the UK’s best-loved TV show, the Great British Bake Off?

Bake Off, as it is affectionately known by its millions of adoring fans, is not just a show, but a TV event – it creates weeks of headlines every year. So what lessons can PR pros learn from Bake Off’s tried and tested recipe for success?

Balancing style and substance

One thing that plagues every Bake Off contestant is getting the right balance between style and substance. Every bake has to taste good and look amazing – and prioritising one over the other could land you in the danger zone. What use is a beautiful pie if the meat isn’t cooked through? Style over substance does not a Star Baker make.

The same goes for PR: we have to ensure the messaging is right with everything we do. A good byline isn’t great unless it conveys the right message, and a research campaign won’t land – however big and bold it might be – unless it creates the right brand awareness for your client. We achieve the ‘Wow factor’ when we expertly balance content with presentation – and this is what keeps clients coming back for more.

Don’t be afraid to change the status quo

In recent years, Bake Off’s contestants have had to go the extra mile to stand out from the crowd. Recently, bakers have been adding spice to their scones, or challenging themselves with a risky new pastry recipe that might not pay off. The world of baking is changing – and so is PR.

Branching out in search of the new is what the best PR pros are focused on in 2018. We don’t yet know what exciting new bakes we are in for this series, but we do know what’s coming in the world of communications. Take integration, for example – many agencies are clamouring for it, but only a select few are changing the dial and really putting this into practice with their clients. While transforming an account to being fully integrated might take a bit more time and effort than putting some chilli in your chocolate mousse, being unafraid to mix it up will always pay off in the ever-changing world of communications.

The importance of perfect timing

You don’t need to be a professional baker to know that timing is of the utmost importance. Watch any episode of Bake Off and you’ll see kitchen timers beeping all over the tent, with bakers intensely calculating the time needed to boil sugar or freeze custard and working to many deadlines during any one bake.

For PRs, like bakers, timing is everything. Keeping on top of news cycles and knowing exactly when to put out a comment relies on a focus on good timing. Being one step ahead of your competitors when commenting on breaking news is critical – and communicating this to your clients and junior team members is the first step in getting the best coverage.

What’s more, PRs should always be able to juggle multiple deadlines, and re-prioritise accordingly. Timing your to-do list and making room for last-minute tasks is key to delivering the best results. In fact, the perfect PR professional would be able draft and distribute a newsjack while baking a tarte au citron – this surely isn’t too much to ask?!

The final ingredient: personality

It’s not only the delicious baking and endless puns that characterise every series of Bake Off – what keeps viewers coming back for more is personalities we see on screen. The producers expertly pick the most spirited people to be on the show, creating maximum entertainment and a constant feel-good factor. It’s no wonder that so many past contestants have gone on to be influencers and celebrities in their own right.

For PR pros, making the most of personalities is vital. Every piece of content we draft should strike a balance between the personality of the spokesperson and the tone of the target publication. Even more important is the personality we need to create the best ‘killer lines’ – having a unique and personal point of view, straight from the horse’s mouth, is what will attract journalists. Take time to get to know the individual personalities of your spokespeople, so you can secure the best coverage for your clients.

With the country’s favourite TV show finally returning this week, the PR industry would be wise to take a leaf out of Bake Off’s very successful recipe book. Combining style and substance, and prioritising personality, timing and risk-taking, will land you with the best client results – and the tastiest bakes. If only Paul Hollywood were around to give us that elusive handshake…

This article first appeared in PRWeek on 31st August 2018.

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