The Perfect PR…

November 29, 2008

I asked a magazine editor what constituted ‘The Perfect PR’ in their experience of media relations recently – these are the points he came back to me with:

“The Perfect PR does the following:

1. Always asks ‘Are you on deadline’ when they ring me. Actually, they only ring on mutual-pre-agreement.

2. Emails great News story, within the magazine’s deadline structure, in an appropriate copy-style with at least one high-resolution jpeg image at 300dpi.

3. Has actually read the magazine and knows the various editorial items and run of mag.

4. Does not make the assumption that the client they represent MUST interest my readership.

5. Is not so far up their own arse that they forget their main purpose is to deliver great copy on behalf of their client as the professional broker between the newsroom and the client. Nothing more.

6. Never, ever, ever, ever rings me to see if I have received a press release.

7. Has the current Forward Features list, and submits timely, appropriate and relevant feature ideas.

8. Always contacts my commissioned freelancers direct, as instructed on the Forward Features list, rather than contact me, demonstrating they have not actually read the Forward Features List in the first place.

9. Does not ever, ever, ever ring me to ask why a press release wasn’t included.

10. Does not invite me to pointless Schmooze events with no inherent News or Feature value: they understand that I receive hundreds of emails per day, and respect that time is very, very precious indeed.

I have the current pleasure of knowing 3 ‘Perfect PRs’ at the moment – which given the above number of PR emails received daily, does not comment positively on the average delivery of PR to UK editors.”

Food for thought indeed.

Well, I would say that wouldn’t I?

But, seriously, think about it…just for a moment.

The UK’s business community gripped in credit-crunched economic fear, marketing directors wondering how hard the recession is going to bite, the media reporting on endless examples of companies going under – only yesterday, we saw the administrators moving forward the final economic death bells for legendary British Brands Woolworths and MFI…if these guys are going to the wall, how can you survive as a small company out there?

Think carefully about your key marketing messages. What do you want to say and to who? How can PR help?

Now is a great time to conduct media relations, given that most Business Editors, News Editors and magazine Editors will be receiving countless stories relating to economic doom and gloom.

Can you give them some positive stories, with great photography? Try it – bet you get a great result. And when you’ve tried it with one journalist, try it with another, and another, and another. Keep going!

Never under-estimate the potential PR gains to be had from economic situations such as that faced by the business community at the moment. Use it to your advantage. Get the media relations machine on over-drive. Get on the phone, talk to the Press and leverage some positivity into their current routine of dull, dreary, negative, the-end-of-the-world-is-nigh email inbox.

It’s the little moments that make a difference, don’t you find? Nothing to do with PR, this one…

The special things that make Life a bit special…I wanted to share such a moment, which happened last night:

After hearing that a close friend had come out of a relationship, and was feeling pretty raw, I suggested we went out for a meal, chat, and a bit of emotional support. Nothing special in that.

At the restaurant, we sit, run through menus – a waitress comes over to take orders, saying:

“Has anyone told you about the specials?”

I reply: ‘No, but weren’t they an 80s Ska band?”

Friend roars with laughter. I smile. Mission accomplished – a truly Special moment!

PR Lies – Myth Number Six

November 23, 2008

This week’s little gem – PR Will Make Your Phones Ring Off The Hook.

There is a misconception, particularly in the SME sector, that PR will make inquiries flood into your business: that is usually not the case.

Placing these kind of expectations on PR will lead to disappointment. PR is all about visibility, credibility and reputation/brand-building, which helps inquiries and sales to happen.

So, if you get a PR Provider making empty promises around PR delivering hundreds of calls from coverage – walk away! It’s an astonishingly-clear example of Blah Blah Blah.

Great PR focuses on making you seen, heard and talked about: the rest is up to your Marketing.

If it sounds too good to be true…you know the rest.

A PR Provider that gets consistent and significant coverage for a client is usually actually delivering well, working hard and talking to the Press, following up, tweaking and re-submitting PR material to keep the Editors’ interested and asking for more.

So, before you ring PR Providers, do us all a favour: review your marketing mix and make sure it is in place and able to deal with good PR delivery. Sales will come from PR if you ensure the right overall mix of buying messages are in place and out there. PR will help the process.

Saying that, we had a PLC client in the health supplements sector who sold out of a product within 48 hours last year after gaining a page-profile in a daily newspaper: the journalist’s mother is still using the product, and the newsroom was inundated with calls at the time.

If only every Press Release could achieve that result – you can never guess what readerships will do.

PR Lies – Myth Number Five

November 20, 2008

Today, and a favourite objection I hear is from those outside the industry, namely “Isn’t it a waste of time using PR around holiday times, such as Christmas?”

Absolutely NOT! Think about it…

As an SME business owner, hitting the Christmas holidays, for example, you may be looking to submit a piece of news or a snappy picture story into selected Media and industry magazines. Do it now!

The larger PR Agencies, servicing the corporate competition in your sector are winding down, whilst many ease off on media relations activities during these perceived ‘quiet spells’ – often referred to by journalists as The Silly Season, when news sources are far, far slower than normal. A good journalist is always on the look-out for a good story.

A perfect time for you to get publication – if you’re on the ball.

Christmas, Summer, Easter: all these are great times to submit PR material for additional publication and awareness building of your commercial concern – as long as you submit effectively and in a timely fashion.

Again, think about it…

Business owners, employees, customers and potential customers are on holiday – but they have more time on their hands to relax, wind-down, catch-up on publications they are usually way to busy to read and digest fully. Their concentration levels are good, they are receptive.

So, if you really, really, really have to engage in trying to do your own PR, now is a good time of year to do it, particularly as we head into December. And try it again before the Easter and Summer breaks, too.

PR Lies – Myth Number Four

November 18, 2008

Myth Number Four – PR is the same as a Marketing Plan. No!

I have come into contact with many SME business owners over the last four years, who believe that PR is the same as the entire Marketing Mix: ie that PR will achieve everything the Marketing Mix will do.

Of course it won’t, and this is a totally unrealistic expectation to place on your PR.

PR works within your overall Marketing Plan, assisting and bolstering other, equally-important actitivites.

Good PR will raise your reputation, enhance Press and Public perception of your commercial concern, help you to become well-known in the hearts and minds of target audiences…

..but it still needs to sit in the framework of an established Marketing Plan, with set aims and ambitions, measurable goals, and reasons to spend cash on PR in the first place.

A scatter-gun approach will always give erratic results – at best. You get out what you put in.

If you’re looking for PR to encapsulate all of your Marketing activities – look again.

This seems like a really obvious point, but I have come into contact with so many business people who roll out the standard statements ‘Loved the publication, but the phone hasn’t rung once’ or ‘We haven’t had any inquiries’ or ‘PR didn’t work for us’…

Missing the point of PR, I’m afraid.

Sure, we have had clients who have sold out of products from effective PR. We have had clients who had an amazing story published in a target publication who didn’t receive a single call. Why?

That’s where the rest of your Marketing Plan comes into effect: how does PR sit within this? What else are you doing? Advertising campaigns? Telemarketing? Networking? Direct Mail? Online Marketing? Search Engine Optimisation? Blogging? Product testing? Word-of-mouth?

Only through a dedicated mix of combined – and linked – activities can you see inquiries consistently over Time. Anything less is selling your business short of revenue.

PR is part of the solution. It’s a drip-feed of awareness, relevance and attraction. A subtle sell.

Consider your Marketing Mix before investing in PR. It can work, but it needs planning, positioning and placement within an appropriate framework of action.

PR Lies – Myth Number Three

November 14, 2008

OK, what’s next?

Another PR lie fed to the non-initiated is that of Account Management: do not believe everything you’re told at the PR Pitch, people! Make sure you get regular feedback. Here’s why:

I heard a story from a business contact recently.

My contact had been bowled over by the MD of a regional PR Agency, and had decided to engage them in PR activities. The contact is involved in a specific business niche and thought he was buying into specific PR knowledge, expertise and media contacts – another Myth I will discuss further in another blog soon.

Said contact signed up for a twelve-month PR Media Relations Campaign, and was duly handed over to a low-level, minimally-experienced PR Account Executive, but still on a hefty Retained Fee. Looks like the contact was sold a turkey!

The enigmatic and energetic MD took an immediate back-step and provided no service whatsoever: his experience and years of dealing with the media held no deliverable bearing in the Account Management for the new client.

It was all spin to win him in.

So, when buying PR, do yourself a favour: find out exactly who is delivering on your behalf, and make sure an appropriate fee is in place – insist on regular feedback, including a monthly report as a bare minimum, and also ensure you see what the hourly equivalent is for those services delivered.

Make the PR provider accountable every step of the way.

PR Lies – Myth Number Two

November 9, 2008

Hello to all reading this.

The last little bundle of PR gold-dust was based around an old chestnut from traditional PR providers of “we’re best buddies with the Editors, we buy them lunch, we can get you in, blah blah blah” and I hope the points raised around Bob Hayward and the strength of his story were useful.

Another little gem is: Myth Number Two – PR Results Take Time.

An outstanding ‘NO!’ to this piece of PR waffle: and here’s an example of why it’s a myth.

In my first PR Management position with a traditional PR Agency, I was attending a new client meeting – it was their first monthly PR evaluation session.

They were told by their Agency Account Director – with a straight face – “not to expect any results for the first six months: we are bedding you in with your target Media.”

MMM…Smelt fishy to me!

Which is why, six weeks later, that same client – with hard work, a great story, determination and a bit of luck – had secured a full page editorial feature in The Times. Not advertising.

I had NEVER dealt with the journalist responsible for that part of the paper. No contact. Not a buddy. No sniff of a free lunch for her, or of one in the future.

Just a great story.

The published item was a significant coup for a small leadership and management training firm in Herefordshire, and the client was so, so happy with the work put in on their behalf.

I thanked them actually, for a great story to work with – it was all reality from their business.

So, if you are dealing with a PR provider who gives you the ‘Media bedding-in time’ line, and that you can’t get results, either ask Why or, even better, walk away. It’s more blah, blah, blah.

Obviously  – it is hard to predict when a client will get coverage – but through hard work, persistence and punchy editorial pieces, a result should come sooner rather than later. Hopefully!

To bolster this point, our last three media relations-based PR clients have all gained publication within the first three weeks of their Agreements being signed. It’s simply about putting in the work, not the Spin.

More to come in due course – hoping that this is useful for those outside the PR sector.

PR Lies – Myth Number One

November 5, 2008

I spend between 3-6 hours weekly talking to contacts in my business networks about the pros and cons of using PR to promote and grow their businesses – nothing remarkable in that, after all, good networking is based on giving, as we all know.

What has become significant, at least to me, however, is that pretty much the same questions and thought processes seem to surface from those not in the PR sector.

What I might find pretty straightforward or simple information, as a specialist, often comes as a huge surprise to the non-initiated in terms of PR processes and the basics of how to do it.

So, with that in mind, I thought it might be useful to dispel some PR myths – and lies.

Starting with this old chestnut: it’s who you know. NO it is not!

Gaining and keeping the attention of the Press is based pretty much solely on the strength of the story you are putting in front of them.

It is not to do with being a good mate of the Editor, or speaking in some different Media language, or schmoozing the Press over endless lunches. How strong is the story? That’s what counts.

Here’s an example, highlighting how the strength of YOUR story can make the difference between anonymity and significant publication.

We have been delivering a media relations Campaign for Bob Hayward and his team at OPC (UK) Limited, and Bob gave us the absolute gem of a story.

In the fact he was running SIX MARATHONS IN SIX DAYS. Thanks Bob!

Which he recently successfully completed, raising awareness for charity The Food Bank.

Not a single journalist that I contacted – either as an established Press contact or as a new Media contact – displayed indifference when told “We have a client, a businessman, who is running six marathons in six days across Death Valley for charity – would you like more information and pictures?”

All Editors found this story interesting, newsworthy and relevant to their readerships.

So, there you go: good PR is hinged around what you know NOT who you know – the day I take a sub-standard, woolly, fluffy, irrelevant, over-the-top sell for a client type Press Release piece to a Press contact is, quite simply, the day they stop talking to me.

It is all about the strength of the story, not the schmooze!

If, and you may in the future, you find yourself in front of a PR provider who starts rattling on about the Editors they know personally, how they are great buddies with the Business Editor at the Times or Telegraph, do yourself a favour – walk away! It’s blah blah blah.

You will instantly save yourself a significant amount of time and money.

More PR Myths to be dispelled in the run-up to Christmas, but I am always happy to answer more specific queries, if it helps improve the quality of business news out there.

Greetings from the grassroots of British PR.

This is a site designed to stretch the imaginations of the average UK company director, business owner, stressed marketing executive, and also a place to put to shame some of the ‘dark arts’ of PR practitioners across the nation.

Having worked as a daily newspaper business editor, a magazine editor, group managing editor, and also combined this decade of newsroom experience with – more recently – a six-year stint delivering PR and editorial solutions to B2B and B2C clients across three continents, you can be assured of straightforward, sales-based and powerful advice, hints and tips here. Definitely an ‘Ab-Fab-Free’ zone.

You will find solutions which you can use yourself with minimal experience – the main quality needed for successful small business PR remains tenacity. And a winning human interest story always helps!

Please add value by sharing comments, experiences and overall insights. This is a space for us all to learn.