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……
I’ve worked with many small businesses and charities over the years and have found that plenty would like to have a regular presence in the media or online but few have the budget to match.
PR takes time, and while a couple of articles in the press may help with instant publicity, often what is needed is a long-term strategy to develop a brand and continuous plugging away at getting customer recognition. Many small organisations lack the skills internally and can’t afford to hire someone on an on-going basis, so how can they build a media profile?
Fiona and I have been puzzling about how to tackle this issue for a while. We were talking with social media whizz, Jackie Hutchings and fellow blogger and journalist Jo Smyth, it turned out that they’d been pondering the same thoughts too.
So we’ve decided to join forces and run a course on – to put it bluntly – do it yourself PR.
We have more than enough experience between us to teach the basics on how to get started on social networks, to engage an audience, blog and write a press release. We find that many small business businesses have stories to tell but they don’t know how to communicate them effectively on or offline. There is a method in writing a decent press release, and there are strategies to deploy to give that story more chance of being used. This day will help delegates understand how the media works, what makes a good story and what doesn’t.
We are prepared for complete beginners, who find Facebook, Twitter and Google+ a complete modern mystery, and for those who use social media but would like to engage in a more effective way. By the end of the day you should be able to identify and write a good story about your news and know how to maximise the ways of communicating that message. Our aim is that delegates walk away with real, practical skills to build on what they already know.
And the final thing is, this course is aimed just at women.
We want a relaxed vibe to the day, where questions (however basic) can be asked with no judgement.
My DIY PR takes place at the Mechanics Institute in Milton Rd, Swindon on Tuesday, October 23rd.
Anyone interested can book here
Don't shut the door on free, independent, credible publicity...
Today’s I’m going to tell you about the kind of public relations person that journalists despair about and subsequently avoid like the plague. Why am I telling you?
To show you how journalists work, how they think, and how a bad communicator causes untold damage to a company’s reputation and significantly reduces their opportunities for future, credible publicity.
This story I’m going to relate is true, it involves an organisation which is real and which is active now – but I won’t name it as I don’t want to put any particular individual in the firing line. Simply because if an organisation is mad enough to appoint poor communicators, then it needs to look at itself rather than at any individual. That individual may simply be representing the view taken by the paymaster. So it’s the paymaster or paymasters who should re-think, in my view.
Preparing to make a short film for a broadcaster, us journalists almost always need case studies. Someone who has experienced the issue that concerns us at any one time. For example, if you are writing about the effects of prostate cancer, you want to interview several people who have it. This is sometimes very easy, some subjects generate loads of people who want to shout about their experiences. Others are far more tricky. How easy is it to get someone to talk openly, on camera about abuse they suffered as a child? Believe me, it’s difficult.
Then there are other subjects where people would think – ‘why is that difficult?’. Poverty is one of them. If you are struggling to pay the bills, are in debt, have lost your job, are overwhelmed by circumstance, it’s very difficult to go on camera to talk about these very personal things. It would involve talking about your income, your expenditure. Details which many of us feel are very personal and private.
So journalists like myself will contact a range of organisations and ask them to approach their members, people they’ve had dealings with or helped, to ask if they’ll take part in any filming. This gives potential interviewees time to consider, and then when they make contact they’ve often already decided they will take part. This is just one tactic we use as journalists to reach people.
Most organisation bend over backwards to help. They know the difficulties of getting case studies but they also know that if they find one, they increase their chance of being interviewed for a film, or at least mentioned. It also gives them a PR opportunity themselves to link their work to a film. So for a little effort, there could be credible, independent publicity.
This particular organisation has a membership based approach. It produced a report which accurately described the kind of circumstances which would work in the film. Having made a telephone call, explained the project to the ‘communications manager’, asked if she could help – this conversation ensued.
She said: ‘The report we did was based on anonymous interviews so we didn’t keep personal details so we cannot contact those people for you. Sorry about that.”
Me: “I understand. Is there any chance, in that case, that you could send out a request by e-mail to your members to see if they would be interested in taking part , or if they know anyone who can help?”
She said: “No, I cannot do that. We only do that for our members, not for any outside body.”
Me: “Oh…right….that seems unfortunate from a communications point of view. Wouldn’t your members want to know about an opportunity to take part in a film?…I find that extraordinary, oh well (goes to end call)”
She said: “Hang on a minute. I’m only telling you that we can’t help and we’re sorry, you don’t have to jump down my throat about it.”
Me: “I’m not jumping down your throat…anyway….thanks for your help. Goodbye.”
On ending the call, all the journalists sitting round me say ‘what was all that about?’. And I tell them.
So what has that communication manager achieved?
In one conversation she’s told five journalists within a news organisation that that body is not open to publicity, is not helpful. So when poverty comes up as an issue again in the coming weeks or months – will that organisation be the first that those journalists approach? No.
If that organisation has done something wonderful and sends out a press release publicising its work – what will those journalists do? Answer – probably nothing. And if it’s a slow news time and they do pick up on it – what do you think the chances are that the negative contact will be explained face-to-face with the individual put up for interview? Probably the boss. Answer, very high.
Being a defensive, uncommunicative communications manager has consequences – you will find it much harder to get good publicity when you want it as you’ll always be at the bottom of the pile, the last contact to be considered.
However if bad news strikes, you are unlikely to be spared the full consequences of it.