A Modest Proposal

We have a client, let’s call him David to spare his blushes.

David is an expert in his field, he’s a professor and someone who’s invited to speak on his area of specialism around the world but he’s a modest chap, and despite these regular invitations, he still questioned why he’s feted in this way and wasn’t sure that he was interesting or knowledgeable enough to be featured in trade titles.

Before we started work with him a few years ago, he’d never really done any PR. He’d published some papers and was known within his field to a certain extent but he’d never really pushed himself forward and was nervous about the prospect of undertaking PR activity.

Since we’ve been working together, we’ve generated commissioned articles for him in the trade media relating to his industry and he now has regular columns in several titles and is well known in the industry.

The results have been impressive. Just recently he attended a conference as a speaker, along with some top level executives from some of the leading companies in the UK and around the world. Being so unassuming, he was wondering why he’d been invited up to share a platform with these people who front such well-known companies.

He assumed he was there to just make up the numbers and that the questions would all be aimed at his fellow panellists. It soon became clear however, that he was the one that all the delegates aimed questions at and wanted to speak to after the conference.

The reason?

Because he had proved that he really knew his stuff. Through commissioned articles and by posting the articles on social media he generated comment and interest and consolidated his position as the leading expert in his field.

He was already highly regarded but by working with him to understand his company, his key messages, his target audience and pitching good story ideas, we were able to generate the press coverage to position him as a thought leader.

His workload has increased and he’s in more demand than ever before. Everyone in his industry knows who he is, his clients know that they’re in safe hands and his competition are wondering why he’s now in this position.

If you’re considering embarking on PR but are worried that you don’t know enough and aren’t experienced enough, remember, you know more than you think you do. If you’re not promoting yourself, your competition will be promoting themselves and once they become the go-to experts in their field, it’ll be difficult for you to catch up.

Making Your Story Work for You

This month, our guest blogger, journalist Marina Gask, shares a few essential tips for anyone contemplating putting themselves forward as a case study in the media.

Freelance journalists are always being asked to find case studies for articles they’re writing.

People who’ve lost weight. People who’ve gained weight. People who’ve changed their lives/left their hated job/moved to the seaside/made a living from their hobby. And so on. It’s easy to think, when you see a call-out for case studies on social media, ‘Ooh, I could do that, I fit the brief’ – but what would you actually gain? Seeing your face in a magazine or online is great, but is it useful? Is it giving you an opportunity to present your business in a good light?

• Think about readership. Ask the journalist for some information on the demographic of their readers. Is it at least partially in line with your customers?

• Ask for copy to be read back to you. Be careful the journalist hasn’t put words in your mouth to make your story more ‘juicy’.

• Make sure your website address is included in the copy or credits.

• Is this article really going to serve your business and give you an opportunity to bring it to the right people’s attention? Will you feel comfortable sharing it on social media?

• Find out what other case studies are being included as this will tell you a lot about the overall feature. Does it still feel like a good fit?

• If your story is suddenly relevant due to a news hook – e.g. you gave birth on the same day as Kate Middleton – you may find you are, briefly, like gold dust and shouldn’t ‘waste’ your story on the wrong publication. Another, better press opportunity may soon arise – and is being a case study for the ‘wrong’ publication ever of benefit?

• Find out the picture requirements – i.e. do you need to provide your own shots, if so what kind, and if not is the journalist arranging to send a photographer to you, or get your picture taken in a studio? Ask to see the image they are using once chosen.

• Develop a good relationship with the journalist and let them know at the outset WHY you are volunteering to be a case study. They will feel duty-bound to respect your wishes.

• If you’ve written a book or have a new service or product to publicise, make sure the journalist is aware of this and ask if it can be given a mention. There may not be room, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

• It’s also wise to find out if your story will definitely be used, and when, so you don’t waste your time. Case studies and sometimes whole articles can get dropped at the last minute, and this can be heart- breaking if you’ve given a lot of your time to the journalist.

• In the event that you get dropped – and it’s not usually the journalist’s decision – you can negotiate to get a mention of your product or service on the news pages, or a mention in a future issue to compensate for your trouble.

A journalist and former magazine editor, Marina Gask is also a press consultant, copywriter and blog coach. To find out more go to www.marinagask.com

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.