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small business

Do you want to appear in the national Press, Radio or TV?

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?  Thomas & Fiona

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. 

I’m a parrot with a splash of eagle, hint of dove. What about you?

Since being in business, I’ve come to realise that understanding yourself can be key to success.

There are lots of things I know about myself but when I became self-employed, there was one thing I didn’t know – could I actually do it? Could I generate any money at all through my own efforts?

You see, I didn’t want to be self-employed. I was doing a job I loved and I wanted to carry on doing that job – sadly though that job no longer wanted me. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was a business decision and about 1,000 people lost their jobs at the same time.

Now I am almost at the five year anniversary of being self-employed and I’m still here. I’m not rich by any means but I’m earning my own money, through my own efforts and endeavours and that’s got to be something to celebrate.

However, I’m also wanting to be better in what I do. So I’m taking a course! I’ve been searching for ages for something which will make me better but which will engage me. During this course, which I’ll blog about many times I’m sure, I’ve been reading text books.

I don’t know about you but reading business books has been without fail, a hideous experience. They are mostly badly written, rushing off into different directions and lacking in real life examples. Frankly, many are simply tripe.

But I’ve just read one in a single day. That’s a record. It was called Taking Flight…do look it up. It tells a very simplistic story about birds in a forest who have to act when trees start falling down…no literary masterpiece but it does the job required…it shows how certain personality types can work.

It’s all about personality types – using the DISC model – which until recently I knew nothing about. Now it’s all around me. I’ve had two personality profiles done and they do capture lots of things about me.

The truth is, I do know these things but knowing and grasping the reality are two different things. Applying that truth is also tricky.

I’ve found out – in bird analogy – that I’m a parrot, with a large element of eagle and a quite large portion of dove. I’ve got very little owl though.

If you know this book, the previous sentence will make sense.

The biggest immediate impact is that I’ve started to recognise others around me, mainly in my friendship group and realised that the dynamic is visible. For example, one of my children is very, very caring and very detailed orientated – which drives me absolutely potty. But it’s not her fault, that’s her response to things and that’s okay. Now I know it’s okay, I find I’m not so irritated by the constant questioning and asking the same thing over and over again.

I also spent some time with two old friends and hardly got a word into the conversation – very unusual for me. I ended up feeling that I was of little value as no one seemed that interested in me or anything I had to say. As I started the self-pity dance, I realised that these were two eagles vying for position without realising it. As a personality with both eagle and dove, confronted by this, I simply gave up and shut up rather than expend energy trying to be heard. I don’t feel angry at all, I’ve just realised that it’s better to see them individually if I personally want to feel listened to – otherwise I’ll continually be a spare part.

Now I’m hoping to become better at business through this learning….here goes!

No, I'm not a peacock..I'm a parrot....

No, I’m not a peacock..I’m a parrot….

 

 

 

What kind of personality are you? Compliant? Steady?

Have you ever had your personality profile done? I’ve had it done twice now. The first time it was interesting, fascinating but not that revealing.

The second time, through I Am Woman, it made so much sense and I can honestly say its had an immediate effect. I don’t mean that it’s made my fortune but it’s made me see myself more clearly and understand why I get on with most people but sometimes find individuals difficult. I also have started to look out for those who find me hard to deal with.  I don’t think there’s been a day since when I’ve not clocked something about my reactions or someone’s reaction to me.

In simple terms, my understanding is that my natural personality is to be extremely dominant. Probably no real surprise to you – but to see it there in black and white was amazing. However, I apparently tone down this natural need to dominate in the workplace, it drops by a staggering 49 per cent. If you think about it – that chimes with what I do. If you are working for numerous employers, you have to adapt to their needs, even if you don’t agree with them.

 

Apparently the most unusual thing is my ability to adapt – it came in at 72 per cent. I can adapt my behaviour to suit the circumstance. Again, my job as a journalist, PR person means that makes sense. You become who you need to be to suit the circumstance. If I’m interviewing a farmer or a vulnerable person, I’ll be very different than if I’m given a five-minute slot with a government minister.

 

However this dominant side means that there are certain things I find difficult. If  someone talks to me about processes or systems, you’ll lose me in ten seconds flat. I find such things utterly stifling, even if  they make sense. I don’t find detail easy but I do it because I have to — being a journalist demands detail.

 

I was told that I would not make a good accountant but a job as an entrepreneur would suit me.

 

So do tell – what kind of person are you?

What is the potential return on investment of PR?

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……

 

Putting the DIY into PR

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

http://mydiy-pr.eventbrite.com

 

What has Twitter done for you this week? Come on – share the pr love!

Today, I decided to talk about a week where social media has really started to show its power.

I’ve been taking social media seriously now for the last two years, sometimes feeling as if I’m too embedded in a virtual environment – a bit like that scene from the Stargate movie where they put their heads through the ‘watery’ porthole which sucks them in….

But I think it’s paying off in so many ways. First and foremost it’s the friends I’m making all over the world – I can’t believe that someone from Singapore, or San Francisco finds anything I say remotely of interest. This week, I’ve connected with Jason in America (no I’ve never met him) and we’ve decided to mutually appreciate each other for a month. So choosing positive key words to describe someone you’ve never met – and probably never will – across Twitter. Might seem a bit pointless but it’s strangely fun and all in the best possible taste.

Also I’ve been flagging up a DIY PR event we’re holding in the south west next month for women in business. I had four inquiries on the first day I started tweeting about it. I wasn’t expecting that!

With my even more business-like hat on I’ve got two lots of paid work in the last two weeks purely through messages put across on social media. How did that happen? I think it’s a question of engagement and being there – that simple, replying at the right time. And, of course, we are good at what we do…

None of that covers the countless RTs we’ve enjoyed and I’ve enjoyed from people all over the place – as you can tell Twitter is my favourite site though I’m also active on Linked In and Facebook.

On the downside I did have one nasty attack as well. Someone thought it would be funny to call me names – I didn’t know this person so I just blocked them. After  saying ‘sad little man’ – if, of course it was a man at all.

Twitter and social media outcomes

Get tweeting – don’t be afraid to show off a little….

All in all, I’m enjoying my time online and it’s paying off in unexpected ways. Long may it continue….

Hidden businesses who don’t realise their worth

I’ve just spent a week in Scotland combining work and pleasure with a trip to various places from Edinburgh and Scotland.
It’s been over a decade since my last visit so I really enjoyed the chance to travel around and enjoy the beauty of the scenery – wow, Edinburgh is wonderful.

One of the places I stayed was the Leny Estate near the small town of

Callander, about an hour from Glasgow.

I had stumbled across it on the internet and the idea of a log cabin on a Scottish mountainside appealed to me.

I didn’t know what to expect from this booking – although this business has an internet site, it’s little more than a brochure, and most contact was through leaving phone messages and trusting that a receipt would arrive for money paid.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy trust, it’s so important. But usually it’s something that’s built up over time.

Although the vibe from this company was good, its social media standing is close to zero in a market place that’s bursting at the seams with similar offerings.
But when we got to the Leny estate it was simply breath-taking – beautiful, private, secluded, a small stately home (five-star), six small log cabins which were perfect (four star) and elsewhere on the site some small cottages for hire.
In the four days we were there, we had everything we needed, we were not bothered by anyone, the scenery was beautiful, I cannot praise it enough. The only small problem we had was an ill-fitting sheet for one of the beds and once reported, a new sheet was on the door step within the hour.

I could not believe that only two cabins appeared to be occupied in the first week in August. Why, oh why, is this business not shouting about itself from the rooftops?

In these times of economic woe, can any business of this kind afford to have empty rooms? empty spaces? Perhaps they can.
As we travelled around, it was clear that there are log cabins, holiday homes, cottages, B&Bs all over the place. All the more reason to stand out from the crowd.

 

All the more reason to invest in some good PR to make sure you are head and shoulders above the rest.
Did I leave my business card? Am I hoping that the owners read this blog? Yes on both counts.
Even when something is exclusive, it’s important to shout about all of those positive factors about your business. Be proud, ask for endorsements, ask for recommendations.

 

It’s not enough to hope that people will stumble across your website,

now is the time to be proactive – it’s one of the keys to survival.

leny estate – great place to stay, where’s the pr

Summer holidays which cost loadsa money!!!!

Where would you draw the line in paying for kids' activities?

Parents are now dealing with the summer holiday season and with that comes the cost of having children off school.
I’m not talking about the speed at which food is hoovered up (I bought six big yoghurts and they were gone within a few hours) or the amount of extra washing. (Anyone with teenage girls will know how children dump perfectly clean clothes into a washing basket to change into the ‘appropriate’ outfit for that particular minute).

 
No, it’s the almost visible rubbing of hands for those businesses who rely on children and families for their income. It’s not just holidays that cost more during school holidays, it’s any type of entertainment.

It’s our modern need to continually give our kids ‘things to do, places to go, people to see’. Why is this?

When I was a kid, we went on a week’s holiday no more than 100 miles away and then I was at home day after day, week after week.

 

Entertainment was self-generated. Imagination was key, as were friendships.

The biggest outing was to the local corner shop with 10p to buy lots of sweets. My parents didn’t have the money for day-trips or extras which we now take for granted.
This was brought home to me this week when my son, who’s 4, desperately wanted to go to a soft play area which had moved premises to a larger site, closer to our house.
Okay, I thought, let’s go. We walked in behind a couple, probably grandparents, with two children, one in a pushchair. They were complaining about the fact that they had to pay for the baby because she was over six months.
So I looked at the price list, which frankly I hadn’t considered. At other similar sites in Swindon, you can pay per half hour, so you can control the cost and keep it within reason.

 

No more, the fees here were flat – so £5.95 for each of my daughters and £3.95 for my son, oh and 75p for me to take up a seat within the premises. Total cost, almost £17. That’s before buying any drinks or refreshments.

Disappointing my son, I just turned and said that it was too much money. Even if we’d gone in and I bought four drinks, we’d be looking at probably £25 for that entertainment.
As a business person, I understand that costs might need to go up but surely there needs to be some moderation. What about more flexible terms – per half hour costs for example? Or a loyalty card scheme?

As a customer, it seemed I was paying through the nose for a new venue and I employed the simplest tactic in the book – I walked out.

 
Even if refreshments prices had risen a little – at least that’s an expense that I choose to make. Also what extras are on offer to justify more money? Is there free internet access? An internet cafe facility?

 
It’s a cheek to charge parents 75p for simply taking up space within a space that was alarmingly empty anyway.

 
I’m afraid this business has priced itself out of the its own market. It’s only been open for a few weeks but who’s going to go there often with prices like that?

 
As a working mum, I know that at it’s previous location, groups of childminders would sometimes go there as a treat for their young charges. I can guarantee that they won’t go now – the cost would be far too high.

 

If you ever want to know what’s good value for money for entertaining children – ask your local childminders, they are experts in value for money.

 
Let’s hope that this small business does some serious market research around its own competitors and adjusts accordingly. Lower your prices or offer something extra and shout about it.

If it doesn’t, I give it a year at the outside.

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