The A-Z of PR

Ok, we won’t really give you the whole A-Z, otherwise we’ll be here for ever and so will you, so we’re just going to run through some of the things that we do on a day to day basis…

Researching – One of the most important things that we do is research. We research the stories in the news every day to check if there’s anything relevant to our clients or something they should be commenting on – by reacting to news stories we’ve had coverage on BBC radio stations up and down the UK, Newsnight, CNBC, Five Live and Good Morning Britain among others.

We also go through newspapers and magazines to identify pages and features where our clients’ products and services might fit. There’s no point in us pitching a pet product to a travel magazine for example (unless it’s a product suitable for pet travel obviously!).

Writing – Much of our time is spent writing, whether it’s a press release to give information on a client’s product, service or event, a pitch to a journalist, a 2,000 word commissioned article giving our client’s thoughts on issues affecting their industry, a newsletter or a blog, we write articles tailored to fit the audience.

Talking – Yes, we know, PR people love to talk, but it is an essential part of our job. It’s only by speaking to journalists that we can find out if a story is going to be suitable. Sometimes it’s through having a discussion about an idea that may not work, that leads you to an idea that will work. It’s also a way to build mutually beneficial relationships with journalists.

Chasing – Maybe chasing isn’t the right word, maybe ‘reminding’ would be better, but it’s our job to remind both clients and the media. We know that our clients are busy running their businesses or their departments and that getting press releases or text signed off is not the most important thing on their to-do list, so for us to meet our deadlines, it’s important for our clients to meet theirs.

In the same way, sometimes we need to chase journalists to check they’ve received emails or press releases we’ve sent and to see if they are of interest. When journalists receive hundreds of emails every day, it’s easy to get lost, so it’s our job to make sure our client’s information is seen.

Socialising – We do like making new friends, but in this sense, we mean social media. We undertake social media on behalf of our clients, which ties in with the research work we mentioned above. We identify relevant stories to post which will appeal to their followers and engage with their target audience by talking to them, sharing interesting content, answering their queries and posting links to achieved press coverage, blogs and company news.

It would have been great to put all this in a pithy acronym, but there’s only so much you can do with R,W,T,C,S. Any bright ideas, please do let us know!

Sit or Switch?

One of the issues that many boutique* agencies face is being the victims of their own success.

Say for example that you’ve been nervous about taking on a PR agency. You’ve done your research, taken your time and finally hired the agency that you think will be the best fit for you.

So they start work. Things are going really well, you’re getting lots of coverage, getting commissioned articles in your target media, being quoted in articles and journalists are starting to come to your agency to get your comment and opinion on market trends.

But then you think…ok, so this boutique agency has done a great job, this is paying off, we’re being recognised as thought leaders and getting more publicity than the competition. If this is what a small agency can achieve, just think what a big agency can do.

So you decide to switch. You go through the whole pitch process again, but with bigger agencies, proposing bigger budgets and sending in the ‘A-team’ to impress and convince you that they can do the job.

But then things start to change. The regular commissioned articles and the opinion pieces are discontinued because your new agency is changing direction and the articles don’t fit with their plans. The work gets passed down to the B or even C team and half the time you can’t even get hold of the team you met in the pitch and the coverage starts to dry up because there’s no communication between you and your agency.

Of course, we’re generalising and this isn’t always the case but here’s our advice on how to get the best out of your agency, big or boutique!

• Agree targets and outcomes of PR activity, make sure you’re working together to achieve them.
• Have regular meetings or even just phone discussions with your agency – sometimes ideas will come out of informal discussions that  you didn’t even realise your PR team needed to know about.
• If you’re not happy with your agency, tell them! As with your clients and customers, your PR team aren’t mind readers and the only  way you can change how things work is to tell them so that you can resolve the problem.
• Trust them. If you hire an accountant or a lawyer (assuming you’re not already an accountant or lawyer!) you make the assumption  that they know more than you about accounts and law. It’s the same with PR. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide which way to go, but  ask your agency’s advice and give it proper consideration. Even if you want to go a different way, an open discussion can lead to a  compromise which works for everyone.
• Answer their calls, respond to their emails and talk to them! We know that when you’re running a business or a marketing department,  dealing with questions and enquiries from an agency can fall down your list of things to do, but the better the communication  between you, the better the results!

*PR speak for smaller agencies!

Five tips for Successful Networking

As most business people know, networking is vital, not just to connect with potential clients, but to find suppliers and develop a support network with people with whom you can share and find solutions to problems.

For many people though, just the idea of networking can bring them out in a cold sweat…think of it, walking into a room of complete strangers…

The important thing to remember though is that every single person in that room will have stood where you’re standing at some point or other and so know exactly how you feel.

Here are our top tips for effective networking:

    • Look at your options
      Decide who it is you want to meet. Each networking group has a different target audience, so is it people in your industry you want to meet or is there a particular industry you want to break into? If that’s the case, then investigate suitable trade associations. If you just want to meet business people in your local area, check out the local networking groups. Do you want to learn or just to meet new contacts? Find out which events have speakers or mastermind sessions and which are purely focused on introducing members.
    • Try them out
      Go to a few events. You’ll naturally find that you prefer certain kinds of events, whether that’s about the time of day or the kind of people that attend. The the only way to work out which ones are for you is to visit them.
    • Go with an open mind
      You might find yourself talking to someone who represents an organisation that you think won’t be relevant to you or your business, but networking isn’t just about you and it’s certainly not about selling. The more your network grows, the more you’re able to connect people you know with one another and your contacts will be able to connect you with people you need to know.
    • Be patient
      Networking is very much like PR, in the sense that the results aren’t instantaneous. It’s unlikely that you’re going to meet your biggest client at your first visit to a networking group, but the more you do it, the better your chances of meeting a great contact.
    • Enjoy it!
      While networking may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or glass of wine depending on the event!), it is a valuable way to get your company name out into the world and demonstrate to people that you are passionate about your business and good at what you do. If anyone can talk about your business it’s you, so make the most of the opportunity. Apart from anything you might even make some new friends!

 

Handling the Media by Ann Wright of Rough House Media

Handling the Media

The phone rings, and there’s a journalist on the other end.

It’s pretty flattering – they want to talk to ME!  But also a bit daunting. After all, you don’t want to say the wrong thing and get stitched up.

First of all, don’t panic.

This is a great opportunity to promote yourself and your organisation, and most journalists are not out to get you. However, do not do the interview immediately.  You need to have time to prepare and consult with your PR department or agency about whether you should go ahead, and what to say if you do. So, say you’re a bit busy but available later on, and promise to call back – or to forward your details to your PR. Before you hang up however, there are some key questions to ask – and even if your policy is to forward all media calls to your PR, these are the questions you find out from them.

1. Who is the interview for?

It could be a local or national newspaper, a trade or specialist journal, a magazine, or a local or national broadcaster, and the tenor of the interview and the potential audience, will depend on this.

2. What is it about?

I know this seems pretty obvious, but if you’re caught on the hop, you might forget to ask. You don’t want to think you’re being interviewed about the charity event you’re organising, and then find it’s about a new product your business is launching.

3. Why do they want to speak to you?

Is the journalist doing a piece specifically about you or your business, so you will be speaking as its representative, are you being interviewed for your expertise in a particular field, or has something gone wrong that you’re being expected to account for? Whichever of these it is, you need to be prepared, think about potential questions and work out what your answers might be.

4. What type of interview does the journalist want?

All the journalist may need is a quick comment to be included as a part the interview, or you could be the main interviewee, in which case the interview might take longer.  And it might be for a news piece or for the feature pages, all of which will affect the type of interview you’ll be expected to give.  You don’t want to be caught on the hop, and sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about, especially if it’s for a longer feature.

5. Who else are they speaking to?

Most important. Are they talking to your rivals? Are you going to be quoted, or simply providing background information for an interview with someone else? Are you being interviewed to provide editorial balance to an argument?  You know the kind of thing: A, who is a dog behaviourist, believes that they should never be trimmed as it causes them trauma, while B, who is a dog grooming expert, says that they should be groomed once a month as longer hair can cause disease and infection.

6. How does the journalist want to conduct the interview and how long will it take?

Is it going to take place over the phone, or in person? Do you need to set aside an hour or just a few minutes? If the journalist is from a TV station and tells you it will take an hour, double this as they’ll need at least that to set up the camera, conduct the interview and film establishing shots.

7. And most important of all, what is the deadline?

This will vary depending on the type of publication, and you don’t want to miss your chance to be quoted.  You can bet your bottom dollar that you’re not the only person the journalist is contacting, and if you don’t come up with an interview and someone else does, it’s them that will get the free promotion, not you.

Of course, once you’ve found all this out, you’ve still got to conduct the interview, and that is where proper preparation will help. Practice and coaching with experienced media trainers will equip you with the tools and techniques that will help you to take charge of an interview and say you want, in the way that you want.

http://www.roughhousemedia.co.uk/

Thought Leadership via Social Media

We once had a potential client tell us that they weren’t on social media because ‘I don’t see the point. Why do you need to tell people that you’re standing in Tesco?’

If that was all that Twitter was used for then perhaps our client might have had a point, but social media for businesses is far, far more than just updating followers on where you’re buying your baked beans. Over the last few years we’ve helped clients build online reputations, launch products, make contact with journalists, find business partners, respond to customer feedback professionally, engage with new customers, gather valuable feedback and drive more traffic to their website – all through social media.

75% of consumers say purchasing decisions are influenced by what they read online, and social media is a key element of that. While most businesses these days accept the necessity of a website and an online presence, few are fully capitalising on how social media can be used to build their brand, spread their key PR messages and distribute content.

So, what can social media do for your PR?

Spread content

Good quality content has always been a key component of any PR campaign but social media has increased this demand dramatically as potential customers crave engaging content to consume, discuss and share online.

A far cry from the staid press releases that used to form the mainstay of a PR campaign 20 years ago, your potential customers want useful, absorbing content. Too savvy to tolerate being forcefully sold at, they want content they enjoy absorbing and information they can use, with your name associated with it to promote your brand.

This is where Thought Leadership PR really comes into play and social media is a great way to get that content to your customer base. Whether you position it through an engrossing blog post which you then tweet, post on facebook and share on LinkedIn, a well produced video or audio message you embed on your website, publish on YouTube or link to on Twitter, or even writing as a guest contributor for any number of high-profile magazine websites who are eager for journalistic quality articles from industry experts, social media is the ideal way to spread your content to a far wider audience than ever before.

Engage directly with customers

Without wanting to get bogged down in buzzwords, people used to talk about B2B and B2C as shorthand for ‘business to business’ interactions and ‘business to consumer’ interactions, but since the take-off of social media there’s a new category – B2P with P being people. Social media is all about engaging with customers as individuals, holding back and forth conversations and interacting directly and proactively with potential or current customers.

In terms of your PR campaign, this is about building your brand and, in some instances, bypassing traditional forms of PR and going directly to your customer. It allows you to communicate your messages directly to your stakeholders and respond appropriately when they want to engage with you in return – you can launch a product or trial an idea, and receive real-time feedback; you can publish some company news and answer any questions stakeholders have immediately; you can demonstrate your credentials as a thought leader in your field and engage in debate or conversation about relevant issues.

Having an active Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc page automatically opens you up to a two-way conversation, so don’t set up more accounts than you can actively monitor and respond to. If you have a social media presence, your customers will expect to be able to interact with you this way and will be frustrated if they don’t get a response. We’ve helped our clients deal appropriately with negative feedback about their service in a constructive and, ultimately, confident way as well as responding graciously – and shouting about it – when the feedback they receive is positive.

Allows you to comment immediately

As industry-related stories break, social media lets you offer your expert, thought leader insight with an immediate impact on your audience. Bypassing the time it takes to write a press release, send it to the journalist and wait for publication, social media gives you immediate access to a platform to make your views known which, in certain circumstances is exactly what your PR needs.

Responding to breaking news lets you demonstrate your expertise and relevance to your audience. Exercise caution to make sure you’re adding value, not just capitalizing on a tragedy, but don’t be afraid to express your views on a topic as long as they correspond with your business’ viewpoint as well. Having an opinion and being willing express it warms customers to you as an authoritative, confident industry expert.
Also, bear in mind that journalists rely heavily on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to source and research stories so if you are connecting with the right people, you may find your comments mark you out as a potential contributor in wider media.

Far from being a short lived trend, social media is a now a valuable part of the PR landscape and, however daunting it may be to the uninitiated, pretty much every business should consider using it in their public relations campaign.

We come across a lot of business who are intimidated by the fast moving pace of social media and don’t really know where to start with their own social media PR strategy, so if you’d like to talk to us about it contact amie@cerubpr.co.uk to start the conversation!

Did You Know That You’re a Thought Leader?

They say you can’t see the wood for the trees and as a business owner this is probably an accurate way to describe how you work. You become so focused on the bottom line, your product, your service, your customers and your business that you fail to notice one important factor: you have become an expert in your own field.

Whether through modesty or too close a perspective, most business owners don’t see their own knowledge as particularly interesting or insightful and would balk at the idea that they could call themselves a ‘thought leader’ and stand up and confidently voice their opinions.

We help our clients to stand out from the competition by raising their profile and shaping their reputation to become known as thought leaders in their field – authoring articles, offering tips, commenting on current industry trends – yet one of the most challenging parts of our job is convincing our clients that they do actually have something worthwhile to say.

So, if you want to reap the benefits of standing out in a crowded marketplace and generating a connection with your brand as your customers come to recognise you as an authoritative individual or company, put aside your misgivings on how under-qualified as a ‘thought leader’ you think you are and consider the following:

The difference isn’t expertise, it’s delivery

It’s very easy to assume that the industry ‘expert’ used in the article you just read or interviewed on the radio programme you just heard has views that are more important than yours, and that’s exactly what your customers will think as well – assuming that the ‘expert’ in the media is the one who will sell the best product or offer the best service. The truth is that all that separates you and that ‘expert’ is the fact that they have found a way for their voice to be heard and you haven’t.

You’re both professionals in the same industry – the difference is that you just haven’t built a platform for spreading your message yet. Journalists call on experts who have made themselves known to them, or publish articles from experts who have bothered to pitch an interesting idea. There’s no mysterious, magical equation that gives them more right to be in the spotlight than you. The difference is that they offered and you can too.

You know more than you think you do

When you are surrounded by people in the same industry as you who all have a similar knowledge base, speak in similar terms and have a common understanding, it’s very easy to assume that the knowledge you have is commonplace and, therefore, unimportant. It’s only when you start discussing ideas with people outside your industry – drawing out ideas as we do with our clients and viewing things from the knowledge starting point of your average customer – that you realise your views and expertise have value.

Sometimes it helps to take a step back and try to see your knowledge from an outsiders perspective. It’s difficult to do, but you’ll realise you know more than you think you do.

It’s all about the angle

One of the skills PR people have is to find the best angle for a particular story. This is especially true when pitching yourself as a thought leader.
You need to adapt the way you view the information and skills you have. For example, very few people would be interested in an article or blog post entitled ‘My Personal Thoughts on Sales’ but if you were to pitch the same piece as ‘The Top 5 Ways To Increase Your Sales’ you would suddenly find people were interested. Same content, just angled slightly differently.

Likewise, you’re shouldn’t feel that you’re limited to only comment on topics directly relating to your own industry. By thinking more widely you’ll increase the opportunities for you to be seen as an expert in your business by more potential customers. For example a body language expert can comment on a celebrity break-up story, a public speaking trainer can comment on how politicians deliver their message, a pet product manufacturer can comment on how pets behave when they’re scared – all of which are examples of how our clients have widened the reach of their media coverage by appearing in media their customers consume rather than industry-specific titles.

Positioning yourself as a thought leader is one of the most effective ways to stand out among your competitors and build a reputation with your customers and potential customers as a knowledgeable and authoritative human ‘face’ of the business. Customers will come to associate your brand with quality and expertise and your company name will be foremost in their mind thanks to increased media exposure.

The first step is to change your perspective and see things from our view – you absolutely are a thought leader.

12 Years and Counting…

This month Cerub PR has turned 12 years old. As some people have pointed out, we’re now entering our difficult teenage years!

Running a business for 12 years has had its ups and downs, some amazing successes and some disappointments, but as most businesses fail in the first two years, we’re very proud to have been running successfully for 12 years.

The last few years have seen a huge amount of change in the PR industry. When I started in agency life at 23 I remember sending out hundreds of press releases via post, or fax if we were lucky. Very few people had email and even fewer companies had websites. You wonder how we coped now. With that in mind, here are our thoughts on five ways that the PR landscape has changed since 2003.

Press Releases

Press releases are still relevant and if you’re pitching a story, journalists will still request press releases and you can distribute them via press wires and press services, but they can be used in many more ways. By creating a press page on your website you can post your press releases and distribute the link through your social media platforms. If press releases are written with SEO in mind, they can also help people using matching key words can find your website more easily.

Content Generation

These days, content is king and PR companies are increasingly working with their clients to produce and share content including anything from videos, podcasts, blogs to events and competitions in order to inspire target audiences and increase brand loyalty.
PR people by nature are story tellers, so it hasn’t been a huge leap for them to take on the role of content generators, particularly in terms of putting together text. As the role of a PR person is to engage with clients’ target audiences in an interesting and engaging way without being too promotional, creating blogs and text content should come easily to them.

Reaching the Media

In the old days, third party endorsement used to be all down to the journalists, however the media landscape is changing and over the past few years we have seen the rise of ‘citizen’ journalism. Technological advancements – in hardware and software – have been the largest driving force behind this change allowing anyone to share their opinions with the wider world in seconds. PR professionals need to understand the new dynamics between brands and audiences and find new, collaborative ways to tell stories.

The Numbers Game

Today, PR campaigns need to be approached with an emphasis on meeting the key business objectives, whether it’s driving website traffic or increasing engagement on social media. Measurement and analytics play a very important role in showcasing the value of public relations for a brand. PR professionals are gradually moving away from ROIs and AVEs as more and more sophisticated monitoring tools are constantly emerging allowing them to illustrate the true impact of their work.

Engaging with your Audience

These days, everything is PR. Making a bad impression or providing bad customer service isn’t just between you, your customer and their friends. It can go viral in a matter of seconds and it’s what people will remember about you. Ten years ago if there was a problem you could deal with the complaint and it would generally stay between you and your customers. Now you need to be on the ball, respond to customers quickly and be shown to be a company which cares and takes complaints seriously.

The nature of social media means that information is given perpetual life so it’s how you respond to the way that people talk about you that can affect your reputation. Of course, good customer service should go without saying, but in PR terms, your reaction says a lot about you as a business.

 

Four Ways to Track Your Marketing Success

Tracking and evaluating marketing performance is a necessity for any business investing time and money in marketing activity.

It is important to understand what works and what doesn’t and thanks to marketing tools such as Google Analytics, a free tool you can sign up for, you can track the results of your marketing activity.

Here’s our advice on four ways to track your marketing success using Google Analytics:

What to track: Organic Search Traffic
Why it matters: Tracking Organic Search Traffic allows you to see the number of visitors who found your website by clicking on links on a search engine results (excluding any purchased traffic such as pay per click ads). Check your Organic Search Traffic report to determine the top keywords visitors are using to find your website.

High volumes of Organic Search Engine Traffic usually indicates that you have good and relevant content.

These are the fundamental things you need to measure to see whether your marketing is having an impact. It’s important to understand how people are finding their way to your website so you can do more of what’s working. If you have a team working on your SEO, they will be able to help you tailor what your site offers to match what your potential customers want and are searching for.

What to track: Bounce Rate
Why it matters: The Bounce Rate is the percentage of people who arrive on your site and leave without visiting a second page. A high bounce rate is not necessarily bad if it’s in line with those all-important marketing objectives. Are you hoping to achieve a high quantity of visitors who just view a specific page and then move on, or are you aiming for more engagement? The bounce rate is subject to the type of site, page, user intent and many other factors. By tracking the bounce rate you can then assess and determine how you can draw more visitors to your pages or what you can do to prompt visitors to browse through ore pages

What to track: Dwell Time
Why it matters: Dwell time is the length of time that a visitor spends on a page before returning to the search engine results page. In theory, the longer the dwell time the better as it is a good indication that the visitor has consumed most of the content on a page before either returning to the search results or performing another action on the site. It can also be a more reliable indicator of a page’s quality and relevance than measuring the bounce rate.

As with all measurement, you need to have an idea how long you want people to stay on each page and then evaluate whether your website performance is meeting your objectives.

For example, if your product is fairly straightforward and easy to understand, your aim may be to get as many people to the site as possible to just view what you have to offer therefore dwell time is less important. However, if your site contains more in-depth content that you want people to read and digest, you’d be hoping to see longer times spent on each page to know your marketing is working how you intend it to.

What to track: New vs Returning
Why it matters: The New vs Returning report in Google Analytics shows you the amount of new and returning visitors that you get to your site each month. There are two reasons why this is important information to have.

Firstly, you can see if your marketing is appealing to new potential customers and whether the content on your site is rich enough to bring people back time after time. Again, your definition of success here will vary depending on your marketing objectives. If you want to reach the widest possible audience, then you’d hope to see high numbers of new visitors. If your services are a more ‘considered purchase’ and you want your customers to build a relationship with your website/brand over time, then you’d be looking for high numbers of returning visitors.

Secondly, this is worth tracking as it helps you understand how people who have been to your site before behave differently to those who are new to the site. You can track this by comparing the number of visits and average page views to determine how many people are returning and how much new traffic you are getting.

Fundamentally your website is a tool which will help you reach your target audience but if it’s not having the impact you need it to, tracking and evaluating performance will help you understand where you’re going wrong and how you can address it.

Five things you can do to ensure PR Success…

As the old adage goes, ‘You can’t see the wood for the trees’ and for most business owners this is particularly true when dealing with their own PR. Sometimes you get so caught up in running the business you fail to see potential angles or, conversely, have an unrealistic idea of what the press are looking for, leading to wasted opportunities and frustration when journalists fail to publish your ‘news’.

Working with a PR agency will always be beneficial, but there are definitely ‘filters’ you can apply yourself to judge whether your story will lead to publication or disappear into the ether as soon as you hit ‘send’.

Know your audience

It’s important to appreciate successful PR isn’t just about ego and kudos, it’s about reaching YOUR audience and YOUR customers. For some businesses, this can achieved with mainstream coverage but if your product appeals to a specific audience, make sure you target them through the media they consume.

Not only will this give you a better chance of raising awareness with your key audience, but it will also save a lot of time that would otherwise have been wasted trying to pitch an irrelevant story to journalists who know their readers well enough to know that it wouldn’t be of interest.

Find your angle – and make it relevant

To increase your chances of coverage, adapt your angle for different publications/programmes. For regional coverage it can be as simple as finding an angle for different local areas.  Say, for instance, your CEO is awarded an OBE. This could potentially be of interest to the local press both in the area where your business trades as well as the area where your CEO lives or grew up with a simple angle change.

A women’s magazine might not be interested in your CEO and their OBE on the surface, but if you tweak the story to focus on the fact that she was the only woman to receive the honour and can offer career advice to other women who want to achieve the same thing, it suddenly becomes relevant. Learn to think about the same story from different angles to maximise coverage.

Make it ‘newsworthy’, not an advert

You need to distinguish between what constitutes ‘news’ as opposed to a story that too forcefully promotes your company. Most media is funded primarily through advertisers who pay to promote their products, so journalists won’t publish stories that promote companies for free. Stories with a news element may be published and your company will be mentioned and therefore promoted in relation to the story.
Be brutally honest with yourself – do you need to find a more newsworthy angle?

Consider images from the start

We often get calls from journalists who like a press release but need to know ‘what are your images like?’ before they will commit to using it. If you have good, professional photos to illustrate your story you not only increase your chances of publication but will achieve a bigger, more eye catching piece on the page.

Make sure your photos are well composed, good quality, not blurry and look professional. Don’t try to apply filters or use PhotoShop yourself. If you need to crop images, bear in mind that newspapers and magazines can only use high-res images so it’s essential that any images have a resolution of over 300 dpi (dots per inch) and are at least 1MB.

Understand timing

Daily or weekly publications have a very fast turnover and what was newsworthy yesterday won’t be today. With digital media, this immediacy is even more evident so being able to react quickly and efficiently is key.

Each publication will have a different ‘lead time’ (i.e. how far in advance they work). Some publications are working on their Christmas issues in August. For other publications, the lead time could be anything from four months to four weeks so plan ahead and know your market.

By thinking critically about your PR and applying these ‘filters’ you can reduce the amount of wasted effort from churning out press releases that fall down on one of these five hurdles. Nothing can guarantee that a journalist will pick up your story, but failing to think about these five points will pretty much guarantee that they won’t!

 

 

 

Who’s Winning the Politics PR Competition?

This General Election is the most closely fought for years with smaller parties challenging the three biggest parties and taking advantage of the opportunities to speak directly to the electorate.

Over the past few months there have been a number of media stories based on how the party leaders are trying – and in some cases failing – to present themselves well. Take for example Natalie Bennett’s disastrous interview with LBC where she wasn’t able to answer the questions and instead claimed to be suffering from a head cold, or Ed Miliband’s ‘two kitchens’ debacle.

The leaders’ debate, which aired on ITV on Thursday 02 April, was a chance for them to really make an impact, explain their policies in more detail and present themselves in the best light, but despite a lot of media training, some of them still struggled to engage with the public.

Performance coach Emma Stroud, MD of Pitch Perfect Club, which has worked with senior executives from some of the biggest organisations in the UK – including Central Government, has examined the winners and the losers in the debate.

Nerves:

‘Ed Miliband’s repeated hand gestures were a clear indication of his nervousness. The continual hand movements were incongruous to the messages he was trying to communicate and had the effect of making the audience focus on the body language rather than the message which is disconcerting and made him appear untrustworthy.’

Authority:

‘David Cameron demonstrated his authority with a calm leadership presence and an element of humility. He wasn’t getting pulled into the scrapping exhibited by the other party leaders.’

Authenticity:

‘Through his voice and body language, Nigel Farage of UKIP came across as extremely authentic as did Nicola Sturgeon.’

Trying too hard:

‘Natalie Bennett had a lot to prove after her LBC interview so was clearly determined to prove that was a one off, so she did come across as trying too hard, however Ed Miliband’s consistent staring at the camera and choice of language exhibited an air of desperation.’

Overall:

‘With the election campaign getting more intense, the party leaders are all focused on how best they can communicate with voters and have clearly been working to improve their communication skills. This is particularly true of Natalie Bennett who has significantly improved. David Cameron was also a lot more believable and authentic than in his recent interview with Jeremy Paxman.

‘Nicola Sturgeon stood out with a powerfully engaging presence which was natural and honest and with David Cameron’s calm and measured delivery and his truthful rebuts of Miliband, choosing a clear winner is a tough call.’

While it’s true that politicians are trying to win votes and it’s a good idea to work with media trainers, one of the most important tips they need to take on board is to be themselves, be honest and be authentic.