28 March 2007

A different type of spinning...

We've talked before about how, when it comes to naming your new PR company, for a supposedly creative industry so many seem to show a complete lack of creativity and simply name the company after themselves...Edelman, Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marstellar...the list goes on and on. Hardly a showcase of originality, is it? So when this morning I came across a PR company I'd never heard of before, but which seemed to have fallen into the same, uninspired naming trap, I was ready to let rip. But it isn't so.

The company in question is Parker, Wayne & Kent (some of you have already got it, haven't you?) Visit its website...go on...and you'll see three rather odd images at the top. At first glance, I thought they were close-ups of people playing Paper, Rock, Scissors (which perhaps was how the agency resolved client billing issues) but they're not...and when you notice the tagline "Heroic Public Relations Consultants" it starts to become clear.

The first picture is of a hand in Spider-Man web-spinning pose (Parker...Peter Parker...geddit?), the second hand is in Batman punching-fist-into-palm-in-frustration pose (Wayne...Bruce Wayne) and the final hand is in Superman off-for-a-quick-fly pose (Kent...you know the rest).

How about that, eh? Naming your PR company after the everyday names of superheroes! Unless, of course, the founders of the company are really called Parker, Wayne & Kent? Which would be some coincidence.

It appeals, in a childish way. However, I do wonder if they're setting themselves up for a fall by calling themselves "heroic"? After all, it's a big claim. Indeed, when posting a job vacancy on UKPress yesterday, the first "team value" that applicants were asked to ascribe to was this:

"1. Heroism - To be heroic is to be: a problem solver, admired, benevolent, chivalrous, confident, courageous, daring, exceptional, gallant, good, great in a crisis, influential, noble, one in a million, powerful, reliable"

Crumbs...and there are only six more values to ascribe to! And you'll need to be able to save the planet on a regular basis.

No mention of salary, funnily enough.


Kasteera said...

Wonder if it company policy to wear your pants on the outside if you work for them?

Justin said...

Have to say i can see past the cheese and love it... great name.

Anonymous said...

I think they're taking the anonymity thing a bit far. No mention of any principal's names anywhere on the web site - not even on their own press releases.

Maybe they walk around everywhere with masks on? Their spouses probably think they work in MI6 - when in reality they have hugely exciting jobs in PR...

Anonymous said...

The pictures show very small hands...one of the things that international man of mystery "Powers" feared!

harika said...

I thought there was something about that name.... When I read it, my spidey sense started tingling!

Anonymous said...

Why is it that so many of are so motivated to take the piss? Maybe because instead of wearing pants on the outside of your trousers the majority are keeping their brains in them. The principal is probably someone who has had the balls to leave a safe, cosy environment with a guaranteed pay packet because they believed in something and had the commitment to make it happen. If heroism is translated into smart thinking and great work supporting the reputation of our industry – then applause as opposed to ridicule seems more appropriate to me.

....the world's leading.... said...

Anon...don't take it so seriously. I've always found an ability to laugh at oneself is also a positive character trait. This is only a gentle ribbing, after all...I think you'll find our original post said that the branding appeals to us.

I can only imagine that the founders of PWK established the brand to grab attention and raise a smile, which is exactly what they've done here.

So, well done them...less well done you.

Anonymous said...

>>"Why is it that so many of are so motivated to take the piss?"<<

because this is a gossip site. if you want a 'serious' read, buy PR Week.

(and yes, I know I just wrote 'serious' and 'PR Week' in the same sentence)

....the world's leading.... said...

I have had a meeting with someone "close to" the superheroes at PWK...actually, they aren't real superheroes. It's just a name. Here's what my source said:

"I developed the name because in their non-superhero roles, Peter Parker, Clarke Kent and Bruce Wayne actually make up the perfect PR company - a mixture of great images (Photographer Peter Parker), intelligent journalism (Daily Planet hack Clarke Kent ) and business acumen (millionaire Bruce Wayne).

"Actually that's a bunch of crap. Truth is, one Saturday morning I was watching Spiderman cartoons on Jetix - no, I'm not 10 - and the name just came to me. I liked it and mentioned it to my flat mate at the time - who I once worked with at another PR company. He adopted an unimpressed expression, so I reckoned I might be onto a winner.

"The name came before the brand values, but in all seriousness the brand values do work for us, and give us something to strive for. No kidding.

"To answer some of the contributors questions:

"Pants policy = none (too easy, sorry)

"Team member's names on site = we're in the business of promoting clients, not ourselves (sorry to get serious)

"Austin Powers & small hands = yes, be afraid

"Why is it that so many of are so motivated to take the piss?" = This is a really sweet post. Anon - thanks so much. Much appreciated.

"Salary = open to suggestion for the right person. Naturally salaries are equivalent if not better than some bigger agencies. We’ve got to compete, after all. We're only little, so don't expect golden handshakes. We're growing, and hope to be much bigger one day. It's a good laugh working here, in the main. We're pretty rigorous in our output so we do produce high quality work. Our clients are happy, anyway. We're involved in a great diversity of activities, even with the number of clients we have. People who join us don't just write and sell-in press releases, that's for sure.

"So if you’re willing to give our vacancy a plug…

"Any applications to cv@pwkpr.com.

"More info about us at www.pwkpr.com.

Thanks so much for the post."

No, no, thank you...whoever you are (adopts wistful look into the mid-distance...)

Anonymous said...

>>"Team member's names on site = we're in the business of promoting clients, not ourselves (sorry to get serious)"<<

I understand that - but clients are invariably attracted by the reputations of the agency's principals as much as they are by the reputation and credibility of the agency itself, are they not..?

I'm sure potential clients would be reassured to know that you are not just a bunch of masked monkeys fresh from an IPR diploma...

Anonymous said...

Ugh! I was quite happy lurking, but if I must:

>> I'm sure potential clients would be reassured to know that you are not just a bunch of masked monkeys fresh from an IPR diploma...

Naturally we demonstrate our experience, knowledge and skill when we converse with prospective clients. It’s part of the course.

>> clients are invariably attracted by the reputations of the agency's principals

Hmmm. Not sure I agree with “invariably”.

How many clients are actually going to get to meet Mr Edelman or Mr Burson? Is it their personal reputation that sells their company’s PR skills? I’d venture not. Their name has become a brand, and any personal influence that clients could have inferred from their involvement has somewhat dissipated through history, M&As, partnerships, marketing activity, and many more influences.

I don’t think of Mr Cadbury when I buy a chocolate bar, Mr Ford when I buy a car or Mr Toshiba when I buy some electrical good. (Exceptions to every rule: Warburtons are doing well at personalising their brand, right now. I like the campaign, although would do better if they introduced the possessive apostrophe into the logo to show that it’s actually from the Warburton family, and not just a brand. – Warburton’s not Warburtons. Sorry, geeky I know.)

Reputations are an active commoditiy. PR people tell clients that, which is why clients pay retainers. PR and reputation management is an ongoing process. One splash of coverage does not fulfil a business’s PR needs.

By the same token, relying on personal achievements in a previous life before you started your PR company just doesn’t cut it.

When starting / running an agency, first thing on the prospect’s mind / lips is, “Who are your clients?”

Notice present tense, and the “Who” actually refers to the company, not the principle.

You can go on and on about your previous client activity before you went out on your own, but actually they won’t take you seriously unless you are actually working for clients at that moment.

Also, I’m pretty sure that many people in PR know that one client often leads to the next client – what one large agency once referred to as ‘cross-pollination’, I think. It’s the company’s client, not the principle’s client. It’s the company’s reputation, not the principle’s.

Prospective clients assess your company on the clients you work with, and the successes your PR company has achieved for them.

Furthermore, nobody builds their business / reputation on their own. Everyone who works here has had a hand in where we’re at now, and what we provide clients. It’s something that was very irritating to see in previous roles when more senior team members often took credit for the successes of juniors. That sucks, and breeds a culture of crass self-publicity in any type of company. For PR in particular, it’s important to remember it’s the client’s reputation / success that counts.

Whilst Parker, Wayne & Kent was started by one person, we’ve had employees working hard, clients who pay us money, supportive family members and even previous employers who’s informal counsel has been important to enabling us to remain in business. We’re not much yet, but here’s hoping.

Also – and it’s not a judgement on companies that have used their principle’s name - I just don’t find personal self-promotion particularly attractive, or even necessary. It’s something that I think has given the PR industry in particular a bad name.

We’re doing OK with how we’re doing, I reckon.

Gotta fly.

Anonymous said...

>>"We’re doing OK with how we’re doing, I reckon."<<

I'm sure you are - and that's commendable. The approach is certainly different and differentiation is becoming harder to find these days.

I suppose the point I was trying to make is that while client work is certainly the 'proof of the pudding', people still like to buy from 'other people' at the end of the day. It's the 'people' element that I felt was missing from the site, but if it works for you then I'll shut my gob.. ;)

Anonymous said...

Ugh #2 If you're going to use the word instead of their names, let's spell it correctly - "principals".

I wouldn't normally comment on a typo in a blog comment but it's the principle. (Ugh #3)

Anonymous said...

I know, I know.

Sorry, was in a rush to get to an event, and proof of the point that team work is important - very useful for things like PROOF READING.

A couple of others you / I missed:

>> supportive family members and even previous employers who’s informal counsel

"Who's" should read "whose".

Also more likely Warburtons' if the brand was named after all the family members, not Warburton's unless it was named after just one.