Invite us to dinner…

We love networking. In London or in Bucks you’ll often find us getting to know other people in business and finding out more about what they do. Networking’s a great way to grow a business and meet interesting people and you never know where it can lead, but one thing that we sometimes struggle with, is the question ‘so, what do you specialise in?’.

When we started the business, almost 14 years ago, our aim was to work with people and businesses that we wanted to work with and who we thought we could help and that’s still our ethos today.

True, we talk about how we work with individuals and businesses which want to be seen as experts in their field and as ‘thought leaders’ but the range of topics we work on are extremely varied.

Our practical approach to PR means we don’t do ‘stunts’ – although we’re not knocking the agencies who do that as they can be very successful– it’s more that our clients want to be featured in their relevant press for their knowledge, their opinions and their expertise.

The approach to generate press coverage for clients requires a measured approach, which requires an in-depth knowledge of a client’s business, what their areas of expertise is and the issues they feel particularly strongly about. We also need to know what’s going on in their industry – what are the hot topics people are discussing and what can our client add to the conversation. We also need knowledge of the media around the industry, what sort of articles do they run, do they accept commissioned articles and what sort of topics are they going to be interested in.

Fundamentally, the process of media relations is the same. What changes is the media, the issues and the approach but by doing our research, monitoring the media and getting under the skin of our clients’ businesses, we are able to position them as the experts in their field.

When you consider that our clients include companies working with graduates and large corporates with an interest in education to venue security and crowd management and a privately owned landowner and sand and gravel supplier with a passion for supporting their local community, you can see the variety of clients we work with and how our approach works.

This is why, if you invite us to a dinner party, we can happily expound on venue security, sheep diseases, body language, relationships, business practices, employee engagement and numerous other topics.

One of our team just said: ‘I love my job, one minute I’m researching the medical device press and the next I’m speaking to Cosmo about relationships!’.

As they say, variety is the spice of life so whether you want to be in The Independent, on The Victoria Derbyshire Show, in Intersec, or Farming Today, we can help!

A true story about the impact of PR

Normally our blog focuses on hints and tips and advice on PR but last week a talk our MD gave in which she mentioned how a magazine feature led to a serious change in her life made us think that perhaps we should tell her story which demonstrates the power of PR.

As long as I can remember I’ve had these ‘blips’. It’s hard to explain but it’s like a very intense form of déjà vu. These episodes would often happen in my sleep and sometimes when I was awake but it was something that I just lived with. To some extent I thought it was normal and it didn’t occur to me to worry about them. When I was going through a particularly floaty phase at 17 I did convince myself that I might be psychic…Yes, I know, I was young and buying crystals and pictures of Unicorns so it kind of fitted in! It was the 90’s after all…

Time went on and nothing really changed, I was still experiencing these blips but just accepted it as part of my life.

Then one day, I was reading a magazine article in Marie-Claire about a girl the same age as me, who started having ‘absences’. Her description of how it felt really struck a chord with me and it turned out that what she had was a form of epilepsy.

When I was a baby, I contracted salmonella poisoning. One night, my parents heard me screaming – but not normal baby screaming – and when the doctor arrived he rushed me straight to hospital where my temperature was so high I was having fits and the doctors had to pack me in ice to bring my temperature down.

While I’d always known about this, I’d never put two and two together to realise that this might have been what caused my blips.

I went to see a neurologist and was duly diagnosed with petit mal epilepsy.

While I’d already realised that it was probably epilepsy, it was still a shock, especially when it dawned on me that I’d lose my driving license for a year.

Five years on I’m fine, on medication which keeps it under control and I’m driving again – in total I lost it for three years and I had to spend a lot of time explaining I hadn’t broken the law to explain why I wasn’t driving!

While it wasn’t an easy time and I had to rely on help from family and friends to get around (thank you everyone!), I got away very lightly. Just seeing what people with severe epilepsy have to deal with really put it in perspective and things could have been a lot worse, but the turning point was the magazine article.

The point of me sharing this story which I normally don’t, is to show how PR really can have an impact. Whether it’s about a product which can help people deal with a problem they face or a story to help raise awareness of a charity or of a certain condition, it can really have an impact and affect the lives of others in a positive way.

Do You Always Have to Rise to the Occasion?

Valentine’s Day, Shrove Tuesday, Easter, Christmas…

And on it goes. No, we’re not just reciting calendar events where we might get presents, but instead, opportunities for press coverage.

Whether you regularly read a newspaper or magazine or not, these annual occasions are embedded in the public consciousness and are just some of the seasonal opportunities you can take advantage of to promote your product or service.

Now, since we’ve just passed Valentine’s Day, we’ll use that as our example.

When publications are planning their February issues, they tend to allocate a big chunk of space to Valentine’s Day. The kinds of stories they run include gift guides or features advising how singletons can find love or how to reignite your relationship. The question is, how can you capitalise on these dates to get your product or service featured?

Start by looking objectively at what it is you have to offer and be honest about whether it’s relevant.

Take for example, a hammer. It’s not a gift that you’d traditionally buy for your partner on Valentine’s Day so the chances are it’s not going to be relevant for gift guides for magazines coming out in February. Now for some PR agencies, the answer is to come up with a cheesy headline like ‘hammer your love home this Valentine’s Day’ (sorry!), but a cheesy headline does not an appropriate story make.

If however, your product is a scented candle, heart shaped chocolates or jewellery, you’re going to be more likely to appeal to journalists writing about romance. In the same way, if you’re a relationship coach, pitching advice on how to keep the magic alive could be of interest.

As we’re always saying, it comes down to doing your research. If you read the papers regularly and read a variety of magazines, start paying attention to trends and what they’re writing about in relation to annual events. Look at what you might have to offer them that’s going to be of interest. Just using the words ‘Valentine’s Day’ or ‘Christmas’ within a headline and hoping they’ll be interested in what your pitching is not the way to go about it.

Creativity is great, but it needs to start from the product or service you want to promote, making sure it’s relevant to the title and the audience and the season, otherwise you’re wasting your time and making no friends in the media.

So, just to recap:

Seasonal opportunities are great, take advantage of them by all means, but if what you want to promote isn’t relevant, move on and find something that works.

Four Reasons Your PR isn’t Working

There could be a number of reasons your PR isn’t having the impact you thought it would and if you think PR is going to magically drive sales, you may need to think again. While PR is an important part of the marketing mix, it needs to work in conjunction with your other sales and marketing activity or you’ll be wasting your time and your money.

For example, you could get a great piece of coverage in The Times or The Telegraph, with all your key messages included, but actually making the sale relies on a number of other things. Here are some thoughts on the things you need to consider before you get started.

Website:

If your website isn’t up to scratch, people aren’t going to buy. It sounds so obvious, but too often people rely on how good they think the product or service is, instead of how it’s presented to potential customers. Your website is your shop window so if your site is cluttered or your images aren’t professional, you’ll lose credibility. A well designed and easy to navigate site is essential to encourage people to buy from you and they should feel secure that they are dealing with a professional and reliable company.

Price point:

What’s your price point? If people go onto the site to look at your products is your pricing realistic? You might get a 25% uplift in your site visits, but if people arrive at your site and think the product is too expensive, they aren’t going to buy. Do research into your competition and see how you compare. If your product is more expensive, you need to make sure you justify why it’s worth it.

Customer service:

What’s your customer service like? Are your team pleasant on the phone and do they respond to emails quickly? A bad experience with your sales team will put people off. You can get all the great publicity you want, but if a customer has a bad experience with your team, you’ll lose them completely and you can bet that they’ll tell their friends about it which is the worst possible PR you can get.

Sales lead times:

How long do your customers take to decide to buy your product? If it’s something that you buy for a friend who’s having a baby for example, your customer might find your product but may not buy it until months later when the baby is born. Or if you have an expensive piece of jewellery, it may be that your customer needs to save up to buy it. Take into account that there may be a time lapse between getting the publicity and making the sale.

The Answers:

Before you start any PR activity take the time to examine all these areas. Ask your friends and contacts what they think of your website, product and pricing. You need their honest opinions about these things so that you can adjust your model accordingly and if you do decide to embark on a PR campaign, you need put into place an evaluation system to measure its success. For example, Google analytics can help you keep track of whether press coverage is driving traffic to your site but if your sales remain static, you need to investigate why.
Fundamentally, PR can drive people to your product and service and encourage sales, but unless these elements are all working in alignment, PR won’t be as effective as you need it to be.

It Takes Two to Tango

Some time ago we had a meeting with a potential client.

We did our research into the company, looked at previous press coverage they’d had and the marketing work they’d been doing so far then went in to meet them to find out more about their aims and objectives, where they saw themselves in a year’s time and what they would consider a successful campaign.

Unfortunately, they didn’t want to discuss any of this.

They wanted to know what we were going to do for them.

That was it, no discussion about the company, its structure or how it worked. No discussion of its long term plans and what they were looking for in a PR agency and no interest in answering the questions which would have given us an insight into the business. As it turned out, the structure of the company had changed since the press coverage from the previous year which was apparent after we queried a few things, but they didn’t want to discuss this either, giving us no insight into the company strategy or its values.

The owner of the business was obviously in a rush and had lined up a number of PR agencies to come in that day to talk to him about their PR, but he was in such a hurry, he had no time or inclination to discuss his business in any depth.

It seemed that he wanted a ‘beauty parade’ of PR agencies and he wanted a company to answer his questions and say what he wanted to hear rather than having an open discussion about the company, its challenges and ambitions.

Interviewing agencies in this way means that they might agree with everything you say, they might promise to get you where you think you need to be (and sometimes where a company thinks it needs coverage may not actually benefit them) but they won’t think creatively and won’t challenge you to think about your business and what you need to do to get where you want to be which leads to overpromising and under-delivering.

If you don’t have time to properly discuss your business and go into detail about what you’re looking for, you won’t get the best out of the agencies you’re seeing. They won’t get an insight into your business and won’t be able to see the opportunities that can only be seen from an external perspective. If you’re short of time, work with your team to put together a PR brief – you can find examples online – which will give you the perspective to think about what you need from an agency and what you’re trying to achieve.

As they say, it takes two to tango, and in order to build a successful long-term relationship with a PR agency, you need to be open with them and work together to agree an effective PR strategy. If you find the right agency, they’ll handle the work without needing too much of your time, but to run an effective PR campaign it’s imperative to invest time in talking to prospective agencies sharing the details of your business to get the best out of them.

A Little Story about Perseverance

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Ok, sorry, got a bit carried away there!

We just want to share with you a story about how, by persevering and being flexible, you can generate press coverage for your company.

A few years ago we were working with a healthcare expert. We identified an opportunity for her in Stella magazine, a magazine supplement within the Sunday Telegraph. The page was called The Knowledge and featured a different expert each week commenting on specific topics. The topics ranged from how to give yourself the perfect manicure right through to how to take the perfect holiday photographs and we were sure that our client would fit perfectly on this page talking about her specialist health subject.

The team at Stella magazine are very difficult to get hold of but we called them numerous times to pitch our client in and were told to send a pitch email in, which we did. Then…nothing. So we’d send another pitch, but nothing. This went on for a while with no result and we were getting a little disheartened because we KNEW that our client would be perfect for this page. Eventually, after about 20 emails, we decided to give it one more go. Our intention is never to stalk or annoy journalists obviously and we had to draw the line somewhere.

But, after the twenty first email, we received a response from the journalist saying that she’d love to feature our client and several weeks later a whole page dedicated to her expertise appeared in the magazine resulting in a huge uplift to her web traffic and hundreds of new subscribers to her newsletter.

Now, the journalist wasn’t ignoring our previous emails and she hadn’t decided that the subject matter wasn’t of interest, she had simply been overwhelmed with emails and missed them. Our perseverance ultimately paid off, gave the journalist a good story to fill the page with and generated a fantastic result for our client.

The lesson? Understand the media outlet you’re pitching to to make sure your story really is relevant to the outlet, hone your pitch so that it’s easy to read, and keep at it. Sending an email and keeping your fingers crossed just isn’t enough.

Focusing on, er, Focus

When you run a business, you know you need to focus on running your business. A lack of focus means that you’re doing everything and achieving nothing, and it’s exactly the same with PR.

Whether you’re working with an agency, or doing it yourself, without a focused plan you run the risk of being a busy fool.

The challenge comes when you’re dealing with multiple products or multiple markets, for example, if your products are suitable for a number of different purposes, or your service suits a number of different industries.

Start by narrowing it down. Which is your biggest selling product or which industry is the most lucrative for you? You might have plans to break into new markets, but it’s worth focusing on areas in which you’re most successful and capitalising on these so that you can be sure that you’re maintaining profile with your existing markets, while considering which other areas to break into.

Once you’ve narrowed down which product or service to focus on, you need to consider which media to approach.

If you have a service which will benefit different industries, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of trade and business media out there, not to mention digital media and broadcast, so come back to where your biggest or most lucrative market is. If it’s recruitment, research the recruitment press and don’t be distracted by other media. Build an exhaustive list of relevant media and focus your time on contacting and pitching to them one by one.

To make sure you’re not wasting your time, make sure the media you’re targeting are going to actually be interested in what you’re selling. For example, if you’re promoting a product, do they have product pages? If you’re keen to be seen as a thought leader, do they feature columns or opinion pieces?

When you’ve ascertained where the best opportunities are, approach them with your ideas, take their feedback and amend your approach according to their requirements. Don’t forget it’s not the media’s job to promote you or your product; it’s their job to provide their audience with stories and features which will interest them, so see what they tend to run and focus your pitch accordingly.

Whatever you do, don’t get distracted and start going down other routes, you’ll lose your focus and start to get confused about what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Once you’ve made a start, you’ll soon get into your stride, which is another reason to focus, you understand what you’re offering the media and get used to telling your story in a way which will appeal to the media.

As they say, ‘keep it simple stupid’. Whether you’re doing it yourself or working with an agency, don’t throw too many things in the pot at once. A lack of focus leads to a lack of results.

How to Find More Customers With Twitter!

Our guest blog this month is from Kirk Thomason of Big Bounce Digital, who shares some tips on how you can find new customers by using Twitter more effectively.

 

Thanks to public updates, searchable bios and a plethora of third-party tools, you can find customers on Twitter more easily than you can on any other network.

Here are our tips on how to go about it…

#1: Start With a Strong Profile

Before you start looking for potential customers on Twitter, you need to make sure that any potential customers who visit your profile know who you are and what you do.

#2: Search for Potential Customers Using Their Bios

We can identify potential customers by keywords they use to define themselves and by their location.

#3: Get Specific Tweets Delivered to Your Inbox

Do you know your potential customers’ needs or pain points? Do they share them on Twitter? If they do, you can get potential customers, primed to buy, delivered directly to your inbox.

Start by using Twitter search to query a few things you think your potential customers might talk about on Twitter in relation to your products or services.

#4: Segment Potential Customers Into a Twitter List

Twitter lists are a great way to organise potential customers you find on Twitter and monitor your discussions.

#5: Combine Bio and Tweet Searches

The most powerful way to find customers on Twitter is to combine searches for keywords in tweets and keywords in Twitter bios. This allows you to find your ideal potential customers who are looking to make a purchase.

Find out more about how Twitter can drive sales and leads for your business today.

Contact Kirk@BigBounceDigital.co.uk – 07771 39 44 81 for a free consultation on your Twitter account.

The Power of Storytelling

‘Now, what I want is, Facts.’ –Opening line from Hard Times – Charles Dickens

I was listening to the radio yesterday. It was something about the EU referendum. People were arguing about facts. I’m not saying facts are over-rated (especially as this blog relates to some scientific facts) but let’s just take a step back for minute and think about what really motivates people….ourselves and our business audiences.

Let’s think about effective public speaking

Public Speaking, done properly, needs to incorporate true and relevant stories which appeal to your audience’s emotions and help you connect with them, but there’s more than that. Much more.

Storytelling appeals to thought processes and intellect. But don’t just take my word for it. There’s real scientific basis for proving the power of storytelling.

There are seven areas of your brain which are stimulated by stories. These are the parts of the brain that respond to sounds, smells, language processing of the words that are heard, the comprehension of those words, movement, touch and finally colours and shapes.

So when you talk about what you’ve seen, heard, felt or even smelled, your listeners can see, hear feel and smell those things too.

They can walk where you have walked and what could be more effective than that to really convey who you are and what you are really all about?

You give your audience a chance to really get inside your heart and your head. That’s the connection you need.

Stories v Numbers

In terms of facts and figures (and I’m not saying that isn’t important when it comes to the end game of making sales or meeting your business or project objectives) only two areas of your brain are stimulated. Only two.

They’re the part that processes words, and the part that understands those words once they’re processed. So if you stand up and read from a slide about what result your product or business could bring to your audience, you’re only switching on part of their brain and you’re not going anywhere near reaching their heart.

When I try to visualise this in my head, I think about a brain being on a dimmer switch. Facts and figures will only light up isolated parts of your brain. But use a true story that is unique to you and the light can flood right across the brain.

Sometimes when I explain the work we do with our PPC members, the response can be ‘Hmmm….it all sounds a bit touchy feely to me’ but mastering storytelling within public speaking has a scientific basis.

But what’s the outcome from storytelling?

You’ll be more memorable.

You’ll tap into the emotions of your audience. And emotions are easier to recall than a load of facts on a power point slide.

And at the end of the day, most people are motivated by emotions.

Your storytelling can do that. Information about a product or service just won’t go as far.  If you want to motivate an audience to think differently, fell differently and ultimately do something differently, then it’s really time to hone those storytelling skills.

Lighting the bonfire of ideas – THINKB!G

And as well is switching on your audience, storytelling and going through the process of thinking about your own stories can ignite new ideas and thoughts in you. It can fuel your own creativity.

Want to be inspired? Book a ticket for ThinkB!G on 8 June.  Discover the Seven Secrets of Storytelling and use it to grow your business. http://www.thinkbig.london/

 

Press Releases and How to Make the Most of Them

Press releases are a great way to communicate your message to the press, but to get results there are a few guidelines it’s worth considering before putting finger to keyboard…

Is it newsworthy?

The kinds of things that warrant press releases are up coming events, a company anniversary or an award win or a new product or service being launched.

Post event press releases can also work, raising awareness of an event you’ve held and its success could be of interest to the press.

Where are you planning on sending it?

If it’s a local story, there’s no point in sending it to the national press. An event relevant to businesses in Buckinghamshire isn’t going to be relevant to businesses in Cambridgeshire for example, so think about who you’re targeting.

If you’re a shop offering a new service, but you only have one shop in one area it’s unlikely that it’s going to be of interest to the national press. If, on the other hand, you have a product available online which will appeal to a specific demographic such as pet owners, you should build a contact list of all the pet press who might be interested.

Images

The writing should be engaging and tell the story succinctly – and, if written properly – can be used by a journalist as is, but images are really what bring a story to life. If you’ve got a product to launch, use a professional image to show what it looks like. If you’re sending out a press release about an event which has taken place, make sure you get some images of the event and add them to the body of the press release to get the journalists attention. Let’s be honest, how interesting is a story about an event without an image to illustrate it?

What do you do afterwards?

Journalists get hundreds of press releases every day, so it’s quite possible that yours will get lost in the ether…the trick here is persistence. When you’ve sent the press release, call the journalist to check they’ve received it and to see whether they’re interested. Even if you get a flat ‘no’ it gives you a chance to find out what might be of interest to them in the future and if you run them through the story there’s a good chance they’ll ask you to resend the press release.

Quick tips:

Press releases shouldn’t be longer than a page
They should include a high res image
They should contain contact details should the journalist require more information
Make sure the spelling and punctuation is perfect
Make sure the details are correct, times, dates, contact information etc.

Finally…

Writing press releases isn’t rocket science, but they should be seen as part of your wider PR plan.