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Martin Smith, forged in the fire of UK Tech PR

Frith PR Q&AI first met Martin Smith (right) Co-Founder of Frith PR (and it’s parent, Sonus PR) on a cold day in October when I was hunting for advice on positioning one of my companies. Since then (and after a very successful acquisition driven by super PR), I’ve referred many a mobile or telecoms related business to Martin and his Co-Founder, Patrick Smith, for advice and perspective.

When I told Martin I was planning a Los Angeles Unlimited Drinks, I was delighted when he immediately called up and offered support as a sponsor — and readily agreed to come along to the event. It was shortly after then that I realised I hadn’t actually blogged much about him. So I demanded a Q&A! And here we are:

What is the one piece of advice you would give to companies to improve their profile?
I think most companies would do well to think more deeply about how they position themselves in the market. It is not enough, for example to decide that you are a ‘leading vendor of mobile data solutions’. So are hundreds of other companies so that description doesn’t resonate with anyone.

How does PR differ in the United States compare to Europe?
Some things are just the same. You need to pitch the story to the right people at the right time in the right way. I have to say though, conditions can be quite different. My PR skills were forged in the fire of the UK tech PR market, which has to be the toughest tech PR market on the planet – UK journalists are often proud of being highly cynical, plus UK agencies often have smaller budgets than their US counterparts without correspondingly smaller expectations.

And what are the biggest differences you see between the US and European wireless markets?
For me, the most interesting difference is people’s relationships with their devices. In Europe the mobile phone is so much more of a fashion item than it is in the United States. This recent post from Dean Bubley is a good example of one way in which that’s true.

What’s the most interesting story you see out there in the wireless market?
The US Federal Communications Commission’s 700-MHz auction is really interesting, partly because of the present-day political maneuverings and partly for its long-term potential to disrupt the status quo.

Who do think is the most interesting company in mobile right now?
Google. In the last 12 months, Google has been staking a claim on more and more aspects of the wireless experience.

How has PR changed over the last few years?
The rise of ‘social media’ has to be the most significant change I have seen, and that’s clearly very much a work in progress. The PR industry is currently working out how to embrace this crazy, new world without forgetting the basics.

Why was Frith PR (and parent Sonus PR) set up as a telecom specialist?
We felt that technology had become so pervasive that it was no longer meaningful to be a ‘technology’ PR expert, so we founded the agency as a ‘telecoms PR’ firm, narrowing the focus and increasing the level of expertise we offer to clients.

Who’s your dream client?
I don’t necessarily have a dream client per se, but I do have a dream type of client – the type of company for which you know you are making a tangible, positive difference. That usually means a company where they are actually doing something really interesting or different and where your client contacts are humble enough to remain open to advice.

What’s your current mobile handset?
I have a couple of mobile phones. One is a Nokia E61, plus I have a Samsung SGH-A707. I am itching to get something new though.

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Martin, thanks very much for taking the time!

If you’d like to pick Martin’s brains, get him in San Francisco on +1 415 848 3035 and tell him I sent you or get in touch via these details.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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