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……
Today’s blog is a bit of a rant. I cannot help it but within the space of 12 hours, two things about LinkedIn have really annoyed me.
It’s also made me think about the role each social media offering plays in my life, both professional and personal.
For me, LinkedIn is a professional site where I can share insights, news, interesting bits and bobs with other business people.
These might be people I admire, I like, I’ve worked with or I simply know or they’ve requested to be linked to me and I’ve checked them out and thought ‘yes’.
I do try not to directly market to individuals with whom I am linked. I try not to do this because frankly I hate it being done to me. I usually post information about what I’m doing, appeals for help etc on my profile or status and leave it to others to engage directly if they are interested.
I’ve found that if I’m linked to an organisation like a hotel – I might get individual messages relating to events which I usually delete. Today, I’ve been targetted by two separate individuals in two different ways and it’s safe to say I’m fed up.
One was a person from overseas, asking me if she could talk to me as she’s got ideas for television programmes and would like to talk to someone about them. There followed a basic list of about five ideas. Great.
I get numerous requests like this on an annual basis and they take up lots of time. People often think they’ve got a great idea for television but have no idea how to take the next step. Well, let me give it to you straight – go to an established independent production company in the UK and ask for a hearing. Unless you are hand in hand with someone within broadcasting that’s one of the only ways to be heard. And another fact, less than five per cent of those ideas will get beyond first base. I know this because I’ve tried it many times, and yes, I’ve had some success.
Hearing the ideas, explaining how tv works, helping with contacts takes a lot of time and effort. Plus I don’t know how the system works in Australia (where this person is purportedly based), it could be totally different but I doubt it. And if it’s America, you’ll probably get all literature posted back to you unopened.
So, harsh as it may sound, I declined the message. Only to get two more with lots of question marks and exclamation marks as though I’ve done something heinous. In the end I send a brief reply outlining the above. So I’m now giving notice – if I don’t know you well on LinkedIn and you want that type of information – I’ll give it to you at my normal daily working rate. Please DM me, I’d be more than happy to hear from you.
Don’t yell at me with your marketing message on LinkedIn – that’s not what I like. Tell me quietly and I’ll consider…..
The other message came from a man asking me to buy his book. It’s related to raising money for charity, it’s a dreadful personal story. The first time I received this message, I replied in some detail. I’ve received it again, the same message clearly sent out as a round-robin request a few months later.
How do I feel about that? My empathy is the same but I still feel like I’m being barked at in a very personal way. If I want to buy a book I will, please don’t try to make me guilty enough to buy it. I went through a hard time with a terrible illness a few years ago and I started to write a book about it – but don’t worry I won’t send you personal messages trying to sell it to you. I’ll let you know about it in passing and the rest is up to you!
Is there an etiquette to this type of marketing? I don’t really know. I just know what really annoys me.
And by the way, I’m holding a DIY PR day for business women on October 23 in Swindon to help you do your own PR stuff. If you are interested – just contact us through this website. I won’t be sending you direct messages on LinkedIn!