11 June 2019
Talking all-things influencers at PRFest
On Friday 14th June, Anne-Marie and Debbie will be speaking at PRFest about influencer
relations and the regulations. It’s going to be an interactive workshop where the team will
take delegates through the process of working with influencers both effectively and
ethically to achieve strategic business objectives, in an interactive workshop that covers
each step from end-to-end.
Ahead of their slot at the festival in the summer, we caught up with PRFest organiser, Laura
Sutherland, to find out what the event is all about and why you should book your ticket to
the festival ASAP…
Tell us about PRFest – what is it, how did it come about, and what can delegates expect
from the two days?
PRFest was something I had thought about for a few years before actually doing anything
about it. The concept was based on professional development – learning in a practical way.
It was born out of frustration that public relations practitioners weren’t modernising quickly
enough and I wanted to try and help move things on, but do it in a way which people feel
relaxed and part of something exciting.
It’s essentially a two-day event, with a dinner on the first night. PRFest isn’t just an event
though, it’s now developed into an amazing community of public relations and
communication professionals. The vibe is exciting and everyone is really committed to
listening and participating. It’s also a safe place for discussion and sharing. People trust each
The format has been tweaked over the last three years and I’m hoping I’ve managed to
strike the right balance between length of sessions, types of speakers and what we’re going
to cover. The main benefit of PRFest is people can actually leave after one or two days and
immediately implement what they have learned. The networking opportunity is good, too.
If people haven’t already bought a ticket, why should they? What makes PRFest different
to other events?
Apart from the event being in Edinburgh, a stunning city, especially in summer, PRFest
offers you an affordable way to upskill, ‘sharpen your pencil’ and hear from a range of
different speakers about key areas affecting our industry. The addition of the discussion
slots, which are kind of unconference-like, has been a welcome addition, as attendees help
each other and offer their experiences.
PRFest isn’t organised by an organisation with an agenda, it’s organised by me! It was built
on my network and has expanded over the last four plus years. Practitioners come from
across the UK and Northern Ireland. This year, one of our speakers is coming all the way
One of the best things about PRFest is the community which has been developed as a result
of the event. The people make it what it is.
As well as being an Independent Practitioner and founder as well as organiser of PRFest,
you’re also a blogger. Tell us a little bit about that.
I actually have two blogs. I have two of everything > my @laurafromaura accounts which are
my personal ones, then the Aura accounts, which are business-orientated. I have my Aura
blog, which is all about public relations and I have my lifestyle blog, which is more about the
things I love in life – food, cars, my dog, eating out and travelling. I like sharing my
experiences with other people, hoping they might get some inspiration from my blog.
My Aura blog is more of thinking platform for me and a tool to help others – writing about
areas of interest in PR and giving some advice on how to handle situations. It’s also a way
for me to demonstrate to clients that I know what I’m talking about!
I’m launching a podcast soon, so keep an eye out for that!
Anne-Marie and Debbie are doing a session on influencer marketing at PRFest. As a PR
professional (and a blogger), what are you looking forward to about the workshop?
I think the workshop will be good for practitioners to learn about influencer relations from
an ethical point of view. Influencers aren’t just people with a big following on Instagram,
they are people who influence your business. I hope that the conversation widens within
the workshop about identifying the right kind of influencers, how to approach partnership
opportunities, what to ask for and expect in return and really drawing on people’s own
The ASA and CMA guidelines are more important than ever as they are cracking down on
influencers who aren’t being transparent. I hope attendees will learn best practice from
then session. The live brief will certainly help.
One of the biggest ways in which influencer marketing is changing is through tougher
competition, rising fees and a demand for longer-term relationships. I’d love for attendees
to bring their own brand experiences to the table.
Why do think it’s important for people to get influencer marketing right? How do you
think this developing area of PR and marketing communication fits within wider
I’ve never been a believer that media relations is the only way – I’ve always worked across
integrated client accounts, since my first PR job over 18 years ago.
We need to think about the best route to reach audiences and how best to engage them.
One thing that’s changed as a result of integration is we require bigger budgets. We need
budgets to develop content and to pay to reach. Influencer relations is another area where
we need a budget, as even ‘micro-influencers’ want payment of some variety, whether it’s
product, experiences or financial.
Credibility is huge. One of my main bugbears for some influencers I see being (overly) used,
is that they themselves would never have bought that product and won’t be a convert to
the brand, so really, should they have been engaged for a campaign? I’d say no as that
doesn’t form part of a longer-term strategy – it’s more spray and pray.
In Scotland, I’d say some influencers are in danger of being seen as ‘rent-a-crowd’ and that’s
coming from conversations I’ve had with big brands. So that comes back to evaluation. How
are PRs and businesses measuring success of these types of influencer relations campaigns?
What has the impact been?
I don’t think we can predict the future of social and how long the likes of Instagrammers will
continue to monetise what they probably used to do as a hobby. They themselves even
comment along the same lines. I’d like to think that brands and practitioners will get better
at evaluation and I hope the likes of CMA and ASA continue to clean-up the world of
What other workshops and talks are happening at PRFest?
We’ve got a big focus on people and teams this year. Everything from encouraging more
BAME people into public relations, how to empower teams and how to make them
inclusive. Also, we’re looking at AI, digital adverts and negative SEO – the more technical
side of our work. You can find the programme here.
Lastly, in three words, what are your plans for PRFest in the future?
Quality. Community. Collaboration.Back to Blog