Do you want to appear in the national press? Do you want to be interviewed on national radio? Do you want to be featured in a high quality national magazine?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes – please read on.
I attended an event in London last week called Meet The Journalists – organised by Dan Martin of Enterprise Nation. You may well ask ‘why would a journalist want to meet other journalists?’ – in my case it was to make new contacts face to face but also to ensure my thinking about the national media and the advice I share with my clients is actually up-to-date and accurate. It was.
The event was attended by many small business people and PR people and it was sold out. What interested me was the behaviour of some of those who attended. First of all, when invited to ask questions – several people launched into a long pitch about their business. Often very desperately as if they had to speak at 100mph and share their long story in 30 seconds flat. This demonstrated to me they saw this as an opportunity to pitch, not to ask. Rather like the hard sale at a networking event and probably likely to yield the same result.
The next thing which interested me was the way in which a few small business owners wanted to whine and bleat at the journalists about how hard their lives are, how they try to get publicity but are ignored and how they don’t have time to make the effort to engage these journalists. There was a sense from some in the audience the journalists had some kind of ‘duty’ to tell their story. Again, this is a familiar ditty which I hear week in and week out. For me, it’s also a sign of a business which probably won’t last. It’s no good telling a journalist you haven’t got time – they aren’t interested. Listening and acting efficiently on the tips they share is one of the best ways to spend marketing time surely. Or hire someone to do it for you. Simple.
A third thing which really got my attention was the way in which a national journalist will decide if your business is worth more than a cursory glance. I know how the news agenda works – when in television day in an day out, a story was often not deemed newsworthy until it had appeared in a newspaper somewhere first. Personally I could never understand that – a good story is a good story. However it often worked that way.
Now, the journalists clearly have a pattern of research and – surprise, surprise – it’s very similar to anyone’s pattern of research.
In a national arena where they write about the biggest, the best, the richest, the worst, the least – they will not write about the mediocre. If a national journalist is interested at all in you, they will look you or your business up on the internet first. If your website is done by your cousin’s child and cost you 50p you are out straightaway. If there are no news stories already there about you to reinforce your credibility – you are at a huge disadvantage. If national or international profile is your goal – you have to be present in a way that can be found easily and quickly.
Finally, some national journalists positively want to hear from the little guy or the little gal but not every day and not on stories which are not of national interest. If you are hiring your first employee – that’s not going to cut it. If you are hiring that expert from Flog It!, that might get their attention. However, if they are writing about apprenticeships and you have hired your first apprentice – well, that’s a toe in straightaway. So my final piece of advice is this – keep on top of the news agenda every day and, if it fits you or your business, become part of the story by proactively letting them know that you are around – and you are available.
Many business owners hear the term ‘public relations’ or ‘pr’ and think ‘I don’t need this, there’s no evidence of a return on investment’ or, as I’ve heard more than once:
‘I want bangs for my buck’ or ‘where’s the bums on seats?’.
Personally, I tend to back off from any business owner who thinks he or she needs my services – and then say things like ‘PR it’s not really that important but I think I ought to do it’ or ‘my product is so fantastic that that article should have sold a million overnight, that press release didn’t work’.
PR is one tool in a marketing strategy and a very valuable one – but it’s a long term, slow burn affair. It’s not, or very rarely, able to fill a stadium with your customers overnight or even in a week or a month. It’s about being visible and understanding how the media and social media works and putting yourself out there to be discovered. Also, if you’re selling a product everything else has to work, like your website, your telephone, your e-mail. You have to be available!
In a time of recession it’s the PR which gets abandoned very quickly. Why is this? Is it not even more important what you project outwards about you and your business at this time? Through traditional and social media? Through advertising, leaflets, brochures, events, e-mailing or whatever strategies you use? Is it not important to be part of your business and geographical community? To have a view on the issues affecting that community?
There are some organisations or business people who just get this – look at the charitable sector, they absolutely understand the value of PR day in, day out. They just get it.
At a recent business event I attended, I spoke to Graham Hill, who discussed these very things with me. He runs a telephone answering company called Verbatim near Newbury. He belongs to various business groups and last year, one of those groups honoured him.
He was the first Oxfordshire member of the Entrepreneurs’ Circle to be awarded “Entrepreneur of the Month” twice in less than a year for making stuff happen in his business. So a group of which he’s a member honours him internally. Deservedly so.
I’d like to say I was responsible for what happened next but I’m afraid I cannot – Graham didn’t know me then! But Graham’s story is one which shows what CAN happen when you get the message about PR.
A simple press release went out detailing his award with photograph. In terms of cash spend – the most this would have cost him was £500, probably less.
Graham Hill gets the award for Enterpreneur of the Month for the second time in 2012.
In Graham’s words this is what happened:
1. the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce then invited me to speak at their lunch which led to a couple of sales enquiries.
2. Then Executive Television, which produces 30 minute documentaries on business and entrepreneurial subjects (aired on Sky information channel 212 and BBC/ITV digital) got in touch.
3. We have just completed the filming, one of four companies interviewed about “Effective Business Communication” Once they have a date to broadcast they will email 5000 IOD members information etc.
So from one little press release we have positioned our business as opinion makers / formers.
What will this publicity be worth globally? What would it have cost if that documentary was turned into advertising space? Four firms featured in 30 minutes – let’s say, conservatively you’ll get seven minutes air time – thousands and thousands of pounds.
Not all press releases will have the same effect but sooner or later one could – and once you are established as a leader in your field in your area, a commentator on your sector, the sky can literally be the limit. And hopefully you’ll take your friendly neighbourhood journalist along with you……
Let's not forget Meredith....
Social media world is buzzing tonight with the freeing of Amanda Knox, as an Italian appeal court quashes her conviction for killing Meredith Kercher, from London.
It’s interesting as a UK resident to see the American reaction to this result – it seems many, many people always believed Amanda Knox to be innocent.
Even Oprah Winfrey apparently did a programme
involving Miss Knox’s parents.
In fact, the reaction suggests that Miss Knox will almost be welcomed home as a hero. All in keeping with the impression I have of this lady, an outgoing, all-American girl, confident and, to me it seems, a bit in-your-face.
I wasn’t there to hear the case in its entirety and as my Italian allows me to ask for an ice-cream and that’s all – well, it wouldn’t have made much difference any way.
But on seeing this reaction, I just keep thinking what about Meredith Kercher and her family?
What must they be feeling now? Does any one care about them? Will we ever truly know what happened to poor Meredith?
This family has kept themselves very private during this latest twist in a tale of murder and sex.
And while, it’s right that any miscarriage of justice is revealed, what about the victims in all of this?
We must not forget that at the centre, there is a family whose child was murdered in horrible circumstances and there is, to me, something grating about celebrating an all-round awful situation.
A man is serving a sentence for his involvement in the killing of Meredith. But this appeal case does raise so many questions about what happened to her.
I feel so uneasy about all of this. I don’t want innocent people to spend time in prison but let’s not forget that a young woman died here and her family don’t have the answers.
So as I see the buzz and watch the media reports, my heart goes out to the Kercher family – because for them, nothing has changed. Meredith has gone and they have to deal with that day in, day out. Tomorrow won’t bring a day of freedom for them.
Question Time has returned and they are talking about 9/11 – not surprising given this weekend’s tenth anniversary.
But just before that on BBC3 was a programme involving a group of young people being taken around America who were all convinced that the attacks on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and the other attack were all caused by the American Government or some other secret society.
Most believed that there was some undercover reason for the attack which was carried out covertly by people within the American Government (or somewhere else) for some greater gain.
Greater it seems than the lives of thousands of people. Greater than any amount of lives – as no one could have known how many people could have been killed. Ten thousand could have lost their lives, 20,000, 30,000….
A comedian, who I did not recognise, was given the task of trying to challenge their conspiracy theories by taking them to meet those who had knowledge of events and to see if their minds could be changed. Two of the group experienced a real change in their views.
I found the programme interesting but rather shallow. There were childish squabbles, tantrums, gnashing of teeth, that inability to listen to anybody else who doesn’t share your view.
Liking much of what is put out on BBC3 and BBC4, I was up for watching this programme but I did feel it was a project which was out of step with all of the other programmes about 9/11 at the moment.
Watching the contributors throwing eggs onto the ground, or throwing stones into piles of flour to show what could happen when a plane hits the ground at speed and is then swallowed up by the impact, somehow felt all wrong. This is just a personal feeling, it seemed without heart.
The only moment when I saw what 9/11 means to me was when they met a woman who’s son had called her from the plane where passengers overpowered the hi-jackers and through their bravery, saved lives on the ground. A son who was just recognising that he was about to die.
Stand in front of a mother who’s received such a call and tell her about your nebulous conspiracy theories. In the face of such dignity, yet so much pain, this group of people appeared pathetic.
What did their theories matter to this woman? Her son is still dead. She is still without him for the rest of her life.
I can’t criticise the way the programme was made in any way. But it seemed to belittle what 9/11 meant.
It was a human tragedy and crime carried out in front of our eyes where thousands of people were killed and the effect of those deaths sent out ripples of misery which are still being felt today. It’s not something that’s over and done with – dusted. Just as I can still feel the pain of the Holocaust, so I feel the pain of this awful event. And I was not directly involved.
9/11 – whatever caused it – was a visible example of human misery and terror being carried out across the media. There have been many since – that were less visible.
For me, it was something that showed how powerful the media can be – we’ve seen that since with the uprisings in Egypt etc.
It also shows how helpless we are in the face of such terrorist attacks (yes, I do believe it was a terrorist attack)
Ten years after 9/11 - Question Time
The way terrorists behave during an attack make them virtually impossible to stop, so early prevention has to be the key. Otherwise it’s too late, there’s no control.
Last week I described a scenario to you where a police officer had almost come to blows with a company over the purchase of a very expensive motorhome.
To re-cap, the £40,000 vehicle was a lemon and the company was refusing to replace it, blaming everyone under the sun, especially the manufacturer of the vehicle.
Under the Sale of Goods Act, it’s the retailer who is responsible for providing a product that’s fit for purpose – not the manufacturer. This is especially true if faults occur during the first six months of ownership. But this police officer was getting nowhere.
That’s where the journalist comes into the mix (me) as the police officer contacts the programme I’m working on at the time. After said police officer guarantees that nothing will stand in his way of taking part in any filming – I get to work. This involves collating and verifying paperwork against story, contacting the relevant company.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, the company says it will back down and replace the vehicle.
Result! Happy police officer.
I contact him to arrange filming but he doesn’t answer. And he doesn’t answer, and he doesn’t answer. No e-mails are answered either.
Eventually after some days, I get hold of him when he rather sheepishly admits that he knows he’s going to get a new vehicle. But the catch is that he will only get it, if he pulls out of any filming.
I ask him if he is going to pull out – and despite all of his earlier protestations of ‘I’m my own man’ and ‘no one will manipulate me’ – he’s well and truly manipulated.
He refuses to cooperate further, while acknowledging that he wouldn’t have had this offer if it hadn’t been for my intervention.
I asked you what you would do if you were the police officer? Would you feel any commitment to me, the journalist, who brought about this offer? Or not? Would you give in to, what is effectively, blackmail?
I’m not sure what I would do – I would want to say no and go ahead with the story. After all, there’d been months of anguish and I would be entitled to a replacement or my money back if I’d gone to court. But who knows what pressure I’d be under to give in?
What could I as the journalist do about this man’s decision? The truth is very little.
I’d not filmed a shot so I was stuffed for a tv story about him – though we had looked at other complaints about the same company. This had been the strongest of the lot. I could (as he’d willingly given me his paperwork to back up his story) have written an article for the local newspaper, naming him and the company and there would have been little he could have done about it. If it’s true, it’s true. I didn’t do this.
For the company, they’d had a lucky escape from bad publicity, though if that company had had any gumption they might have seen it as a chance to get their brand on air, with an apology and shots of ‘here you are Mr Police Officer, let me hand over the keys to your new vehicle’.
Even though it is, on the face of it a bad news story, it’s precious air-time which you might not otherwise get. You could have put a spin on it of ‘ here’s company that puts rights its mistakes’ etc. But few company bosses are that courageous.
As a viewer, how do you feel about companies which actually turn up to
would you throw away your principles for a new motorhome?
put their side on programmes like the BBC’s Watchdog for example. I always think ‘well at least they’ve had the courage to stand up and be counted’. To me it always looks as if you’ve got something to hide if you are super defensive.
Regardless, this is a very common if frustrating problem when you work in consumer journalism – and I suppose us journalists will never totally overcome it.