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PROGRESS you can’t make progress without pr

PUBLIC RELATIONS part of the marketing mix?

THE CHANGING FACE OF PR Has PR changed over the last 15 years? Most people would say yes, hugely.


he advent of social media and the speed at which news is now communicated seems a world away from the ‘old days’ of sending releases in the post or faxing news to the media. However, when you examine PR as a discipline, the core premise remains determining how to communicate the key messages of a business, product or person to the right people, in the right way, at the right time to influence opinion, thought or behaviour. Everything else about the industry has changed. It’s more about bottom line than Max Clifford style publicity. Audiences are generally more savvy and certainly more cynical. We have 24 hour news channels, websites for every niche interest, twitter, instant messaging, Facebook and blogs adding a whole new dimension and urgency. There is far more opportunity to get your messages heard and despite the decline of the daily newspaper, people are far more in touch with the news, often as it happens rather than waiting for tomorrow’s paper. Your customers are far more aware of what is going on in their industry or sector. It’s all so much more immediate. Choosing the right moment has got infinitely more

sophisticated as well – it’s no longer just about the launch of a new product or service offering. It could be when working on a tender; when a competitor is opening an office or when you have an important introductory meeting in the diary. As the number one objective of PR stays constant, so do the attributes needed by a good PR advisor: excellent verbal and written communication skills; an unerring passion for the media (of all kinds); the ability to persuade, negotiate and work to strict deadlines; and an unrelenting tenacity to juggle many balls at once... without ever dropping one. There’s no glamour in PR – and there hasn’t been for a long, long time. The urban legend of endless, boozy lunches is the stuff of dreams. The reality is a combination of creative ideas, determined implementation, intelligent word craft, a terrier-like approach to dealing with journalists and a commitment to securing results. Above all, it’s hard work. Ideally, your perfect PR team should be passionate about what they do, combined with a healthy measure of humour, creativity, reality and the confidence to tell you how it is, which might not necessarily be how you want it to be.

guarantee exclusivity and partly to better understand the needs of that business, it’s not the only answer.

TIME IS MONEY Like almost all businesses, we have to look at different charging mechanisms that help deliver what clients want. Whilst PR agencies are often still retained by many businesses, partly to

We work with clients on retained day rates, project rates and hourly rates. All offer something different for each client, but ultimately it’s the work we put into the hours that matter, not the hours we put into the work. Fancy a change? 0121 250 5770

IT’S THE WAY WE TELL ‘EM Despite the best efforts of PR firms, often what is said is not as important as the way it is said.Words are powerful, but using descriptions or expressions to represent facts in a unique or incongruous manner can have surprising results.The mundane can become exciting and generate renewed interest. Although an obvious spoof, the campaign to ban dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is a perfect example of the way representing something mundane in a new way can lead to surprising results.When a sample audience were

given the bare facts as expressed below, 78% thought governments should do more to ban this dangerous substance. THE TRUTH, BUT WITH A TWIST Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is perhaps the single most prevalent of all chemicals that can be dangerous to life.The chemical industry regularly uses it in its processes. It is used in significant ways and often leads to serious spillages and other leaks, regularly finding its way into our food supply. It causes death due to accidental inhalation, even in small quantities and prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage and hundreds of deaths

every year. Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns. Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically fatal side-effects, but it is found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumours and lesions. DHMO is a major component of acid rain and contributes to soil erosion. It leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals and reduces the effectiveness of any contaminated car braking system. This chemical is dangerous in the wrong hands and yet it still has not been banned despite repeated requests to investigate. Isn’t it about time governments did the



lthough PR has something very positive to add to any business at any stage of its development, a good approach will also help the continuous improvement of your website and its crucial rise up the search engine rankings. Every PR agency will try to achieve coverage of company news in the relevant media, where it will be read by people with a passing interest in your news at that moment, but unfortunately ignored by many. However, placing the article on your own website with reference to media coverage achieved and hyperlinks to online media can deliver further benefits. People visiting your site are interested in your business and the services or products you offer. These potential customers will be interested in your news and opinions as they add credibility to your proposition and highlight your abilities in a less strident fashion than your sales literature. Media coverage has an impartial feel that advertising and marketing can never match. All this effort on your website leads to a regular refreshing of your site content; and that’s something search engines just love. Your news releases should contain the likely search phrases potential customers might use when searching for businesses like yours; this ensures when they start searching, up you pop near the top of page one on Google. And remember, the more news you generate, the more regularly you refresh your site, the more easily you will be found. Tell your story and tell it often.

Employ the Attitude; Train the Skills

responsible thing and banned DHMO? AND NOW FOR THE SCIENCE Of course, for those who missed chemistry classes at school, DHMO is another way of representing H2O or water.Think about it. Every statement is true and makes complete sense when you know DHMO is plain and simple water. The technically minded will argue with denoting water as DMHO, but it shows the danger of taking facts at face value without understanding the full message behind words – for a laugh, visit

In today's fast-paced world of social media, instant messaging, friends and tweets, you must realize the reputation of your business is out there, whether you like it or not. Often bad companies will not be able to find the talent they need for success because of their reputation for how they treat employees. The economic recovery when it comes will highlight this fact for many businesses with poor reputations, particularly those that treated employees badly when the recession began. Apart from jobs requiring very specific skills, many experts believe most people can be trained to do what a business needs them to do, but only if they have the right attitude from the start. Employ the attitude; train the skills. There are three steps to help improve the reputation of a business amongst its employees and the wider social media audience. Make sure you employ the right people, train them later and instill within them the culture of your business. Your ability to retain staff will increase dramatically. HR guru Arte Nathan once famously said; "You can't teach employees to smile - they have to smile before you hire them." From a PR perspective we would much rather talk about well trained staff, valued by their company than endless new appointment releases which may indicate an unsettled workforce.

SIZE WHEN IT COMES TO THE PR FIRM YOU WORK WITH, THE ANSWER IS YES And not perhaps in the way you would think. Account Director, Beth Elliot, explains her top three reasons why opting for small (but perfectly formed) agencies can be preferable to choosing the big guns. “I’ve worked in consultancies of various shapes and sizes and the honest answer is you should go for one which treats you and your business as a valued client. When choosing which PR firm you would like to work with, the ‘big names’ may seem exciting but depending on your budget, you may not be quite so exciting to them. If that’s the case, then once won, your business will quickly become very low down on their list of priorities.

“Putting myself in your shoes, I’d want to be a big fish in a smaller pond. Every client wants to feel like they’re the most important – and when you’re spending your company’s hard earned cash on PR activity, that’s only natural. But how realistic is it if you’re a minnow in a great big lake? “If you want honesty, then ask for it. Clarify how big your PR budget is compared to other clients on the books – and gauge from the response just how much emphasis will be placed on you. You need to like what you hear – from individuals you think you could work with. Let’s face it, the old adage still rings true – people do buy from people – and especially ones they think they can trust.

DOES IT REALLY MATTER? “That leads to my second point. If you are looking to appoint a PR agency, then meet the team you’ll be working with before you make your mind up. Ask the question – are these the people you’ll be in regular contact with day in, day out? It’s a common occurrence at large agencies for senior PRs to attend pitches and help ‘win’ the account and then disappear off the radar. Insist that the team members you meet will be the ones you’ll deal with on a day-to-day basis, not just if there’s an issue. In a smaller agency, it’s more likely you’ll have continual contact with the senior bods – not just at monthly or even six monthly review meetings. “Thirdly, a small team is more prepared to be flexible – with the communications skill set to be able to offer most things to most people. Consultants aren’t pigeonholed into specific areas of expertise – it’s more a case that everyone can turn their hand to anything. Whether it’s corporate communications, consumer PR, social media, general marketing activity or crisis management, a small team of experienced communications professionals can offer you all the support you need for a budget that won’t make your eyes water.”

TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE Isn’t it time we set aside the traditional enmity that exists between advertising practitioners and public relations consultants? Each side insists their activities are the best for brand building, without recognising the importance each discipline plays in a balanced, integrated marketing campaign. Ever since Al Ries wrote his seminal volume ‘The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR’, back in 2002, the arguments have grown worse and more vitriolic. If the two work closely together and ensure there is consistency of message the result will be true synergy. And if everything intended to be read is interesting and engages with the audience then we really are making progress.


BOSS, I’VE GOT THE PRESS ON THE LINE... Words guaranteed to strike fear in most business owners or managers, but an opportunity to spread your message if handled correctly.

• Keep your answers succinct and relevant; don’t wander off-topic into areas of discussion you have not prepared for in advance.

You’ve spent the time and put in the effort to get your opinions heard. Now the media is calling to get your views on an industry hot topic or to discuss your latest acquisition. Stay calm. Remember you’re in control; you know more than the journalist; you have the information they need and you can always say no if gets too sticky.

• Offer the journalist the opportunity to supply further information or indicate your willingness to discuss other topics at a future date.

Scary as it may be, there are a few simple rules to remember when faced with a media interview: • Find out what the purpose of the interview is; who else will be included; when the finished article is expected to be published and where; how will your comments and opinions be used?

• Speak slowly and try to remain calm; do not be afraid to pause and enjoy a little thinking time. • Keep any trade jargon to a minimum and explain it simply if asked to. Don’t polish your ego by trying to outsmart a journalist – even if you manage it in the interview, you and your business will be the losers in the long term. The repercussions can be serious.

• If you are not prepared, agree to ring back at a specific time when you have had chance to prepare some answers.

Specific consultancies offer media training, but unless you are expecting to be door-stepped by the nationals or Watchdog reporters, the simple guidelines above will help. Having your information to hand and rehearsed will also help.

• Remember, it’s not like the movies; there is no such thing as ‘off the record’. You don’t get to check any article before it’s published and object to them using anything you didn’t mean to say.

However, it’s important to remember that trade media journalists will generally want good stories about the industry they cover; they are not trying to catch you out or trip you up.


EVERY PR PRACTITIONER WILL TELL YOU IT’S THE QUALITY OF THE WRITTEN WORD THAT MATTERS MOST... ...but the good ones will admit that many a poor story was saved by the quality of the photograph. When we talk about quality, it refers to both the technical and subjective quality of the image. Although the digital cameras available to even the most hapless party snapper offer the ability to deliver the right number of pixels, a lot can still go wrong even after the event has finished.

Any photograph you use to accompany a story will generally need to have a file size measured in MB, not KB; true even for website use. The media concerned can always ask you to reduce the file size, but you’re stumped if they ask for a higher quality image and you don’t have one – your story could be thrown out. The subjective quality is trickier. Picture editors know the power of photography, but fortunately so do the talented band of photographers that

specialise in commercial and PR work. Most good PR agencies will have a stable of freelance photographers to call on, each with a specialist area of expertise; it might be reportage photography, sports, portraits, architecture or action shots. Whatever the subject, ask the advice of the PR agency. Look at similar work and see if you like it and would be happy to see your products or services portrayed the same way.

Ideally a choice of photographs should be approved for use with any story. There is nothing worse than sending all media the release with the same photo and seeing it reproduced 15 times. A word of caution; if you have specific health and safety issues concerning your products or services, ensure none of the photographs you approve for use, feature any transgressions. If they are published, it’s difficult to argue against photographic evidence.



The convergence between PR and marketing is gathering pace, with content heavy social media driving this welcome change. Now is the time to combine the cost-effective approach of PR into an integrated marketing strategy to utilize new techniques for delivering company news and information. We have so much at our disposal and so many ways to reach the audience we are targeting.

To perhaps underline the importance placed on good PR by successful companies and the personalities that drive that success, it was Microsoft founder Bill Gates who opined; “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” Easy to say when you are as far away from your last dollar as Bill, but still an important insight into the value he perceives PR can deliver to a business, whatever its stage of development.


As marketing guru Seth Godin famously wrote; “How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” It doesn’t have to be expensive, just creative; video news

finding 140 characters too much to take in, but it appears to be true. The growing popularity of mobile devices

So you have joined the social media revolution and have decided to get tweeting. A top tip for creating tweets that attract attention is use far less than the permitted 140 characters.

Recently, we have seen a significant change in the role of public relations as it moves purely from a way of informing the media, towards being a major part of any integrated marketing strategy. When used effectively, PR can drive sales and increase revenue for the company, in a similar way to traditional marketing methods. PR is not just used by companies to increase consumer awareness, but to drive traffic to their websites and boost sales.

The Potential of PR

means the shorter the tweet, the better it looks on the small screen and the more attention it will receive. Keep

your tweets down to 50-70 characters and reap the benefits. Guy Kawasaki is a prolific tweeter, but always keeps them interesting and short, covering a wide variety of topics; some informative; some controversial; some fun too. He is the former brand evangelist for Apple, tasked by the corporate giant to maintain and rejuvenate the Macintosh cult. His approach works and works well. He has almost 400,000 followers; all interested in what he has to say and his opinions; as opposed to the millions who follow celebrities hoping to become their ‘newest bestest friend’.

The best tweets are nearly always short. Why? Because it lets others add to your message more easily when retweeting, as the shorter the tweet, the more it will be passed around. And you will get the credit when it does. It seems bizarre to talk of people


releases, social media campaigns, viral games, multimedia blogs…the list is almost endless.

• PR delivers significant ROI overall, in fact much greater than advertising, and provides a halo effect over other marketing tactics • PR delivers high ROI with a relatively low spend in comparison to other marketing vehicles We now have to accept that PR is an important component of your messaging success. When employed correctly, it is seen to deliver an ROI greater than many marketing and advertising activities. A successful PR campaign will positively impact consumer awareness and your sales. A well-crafted PR campaign will drive publicity for you and also support your marketing efforts. It will help attract potential buyers to your website and create new sales opportunities.

Recognising the growing importance of PR, it has evolved to become an integral component of marketing and lead generation strategies for all of today’s successful companies. A study There seems no end in sight to the was recently undertaken to understand economic strife we continue to suffer, the ROI of public relations for a major so there is little point riding out the FMCG manufacturer. It used accurate storm doing nothing but standing still. statistical modelling across the marketing mix of its most popular six brands, Now is the right time to conducted over a three QREATIVE show your customers and year period and the market in general that produced some very you are still competitive, interesting results: still successful and have a good story to tell – that’s • Three of the six brands it where good PR can make a studied showed PR with big difference to your the highest ROI of any growth ambitions. And marketing tactic help you make progress.



The lines between social media being a personal affair and a professional affair can be blurred – it is often easy to figure out an individual’s profession or workplace via their online presence. You need to ensure what is said about, or can be related back to your business is not damaging – this may mean you have to set out guidelines of ‘best practise’ amongst your colleagues.


Mistakes are often made via social media sites because it’s easy to put your opinions out there and just one mistake can have huge repercussions. But it need not be a minefield – if in doubt, seek advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about.

NO,YOU DON’T NEED A FACEBOOK PRESENCE If there’s one thing worse than having no social media presence, it’s having a bad one. You might be urged to create a Facebook brand page by young eager types, but this needs some serious thought. Any social media presence means investing valuable time and money. It diverts resources from elsewhere and a strong social media presence requires someone to create interesting content,


uphold brand values, start conversations to engage customers, respond to interactions and monitor online activity.

you not started one at all. It will just prove to followers you did it for ‘me too’ reasons and not because you understood their wants and needs.

If you don’t have the necessary resources to devote to your social media presence, don’t start one and then ignore it. You will cause far more resentment than had

Just because marketers talk incessantly about business benefits, don’t assume you’re missing out on customers that utilise social media. Before investing scarce resources you

It’s not just about pushing out your corporate messages and hoping each new audience finds you interesting. They won’t.

WE COULDN’T HAVE PUT IT BETTER t is the role of a PR firm to get you and your business talked about in a positive way; to encourage potential customers to change their perception and remove the barriers that prevent them purchasing your goods or services.


As Oscar Wilde once famously quipped; “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.” There is certainly truth in the statement if you’re

hoping to grow your business, but there are dangers to speaking without thinking; just ask Gerald Ratner. Regardless of whether you like it or not, the chances are your customers are already talking about your business and it can be a very one-sided conversation if you don’t join in. Social media offers you the opportunity to engage with your customers in a way of their choosing. As a corporate entity you will find it difficult

to remain in total control of your brand. You have to play by the rules as laid down by your consumers. Once you put your brand out there, they will do what they want with it. Your role is to make your brand engaging and hopefully one that inspires loyalty and a sense of pride amongst consumers. Look at the use of Lego in a thousand and one YouTube videos and the way Lego has exploited its use to drive sales to a

should investigate carefully which social media will generate the best returns for you and your messages. If you don’t have the experience, seek expert help; over time it will save you time and money. Remember, both words in the expression ‘social media’ are important. You have a lot of new media to communicate with potential customers, but you have to be social; you engage with consumers and give them reasons to want to buy from you.

completely new generation of fans and their children. Aftershave Old Spice is the latest ‘old school’ brand to receive a social media overhaul; and what a job they’ve done. The tongue-in-cheek infomercials screened via YouTube have been viewed by tens of millions worldwide, with recent reports indicating a 107% increase in Old Spice sales. Take that then social media doubters; it can work. But before you reach for your camcorder, remember, you have to put in as much effort planning your social media

One of the risks of social media sites like Twitter is defamation. Because of its conversational nature, many people often don’t realise that they are at risk. What might be intended as a sarcastic remark, may well be misconstrued by the recipient or observers, who may take the comments at face value.


Social media can be very powerful, and extremely fast in terms of delivering news rumour and lies, having the potential to make, or break, your brand. While you can’t completely control it, there are ways that you can maintain some control over how your brand is perceived.

campaign as you would with more traditional marketing activity; it’s not a free silver bullet to solve your business growth ambitions.

CLASSIFIED ADS Wanted: Magazine looking for high-end

British-made consumer products to feature in the autumn issue, which is due out at the end of September. The aim of the spread is to help wealthy business owners spend their cash, so we want to see the very best products that are made in Britain.

Free: products required for Goody Bag contents for Celebrity attended Awards Ceremony being held in London in September. There will be 300 guests, with global press coverage, TV and radio present at the awards and it’s a great opportunity to get your products out there.

Freelance: journalist requires exciting new

food and drink offerings to review for Christmas Party supplement – party food, ready to eat, snacks, treats, alcohol, pre-mix cocktails etc.

Technology: blogger seeks gadgets, gizmos and fun stuff for review in ‘Technology Today’ piece – mostly electrical products, but anything considered.

Regional: media seeks sponsorship for healthcare supplement covering the future of GP practices and the issues faced by medical practitioners.

Journalist: looking for news roundup in the chemical sector. Any businesses with interesting stories covering new products, export agreements, contract wins or significant appointments considered.

Editor: seeks manufacturer or supplier of

Blogger: wanted to write regularly on general

Magazine: currently looking for content to be

business interest website on business sector specific issues, trends, legislation and market insight.

Journalist: seeks successful business owner

or CEO, for in-depth interview about them, the business, the sector and how they plan to remain successful.

Wanted: We’re looking for unbiased generic

lead editorial for the following features; Epos-systems for bars restaurants and hotels, highlighting the benefits, stock control security, etc. Security CCTV systems for bars, pubs, hotels again highlighting benefits, safety, theft, etc.

Help: Needed, high res pictures of the best aids for bad backs (preventing or helping). Chairs, gizmos, health equipment, etc., that help develop the muscles, as well as lotions and potions!

Say Something Memorable If you ever check your web stats, you will probably find the most popular page on your site is the About Us page. It may not seem it, but this page is critical to your success. It establishes your credibility; or destroys it utterly if the page is rubbish. This is your chance to write about yourself and your winning approach. We know it’s hard and most people are uncomfortable doing it, which is why we still read About Us pages like this:

garden buildings for office or leisure use, for ‘improve – don’t move’ feature. Good photographs and case studies will be given precedence.

featured in homes section which will appear in the October issue. For this issue the focus will be on the latest in bathroom design, looking at what is popular, colour scheme, planning advice, and what works well in this area of the home.

Speaker: required for sustainability forum to discuss the UK energy mix and the role nuclear power is expected to play in the immediate future.

Editor: seeks comments from manufacturing business owners on the state of the UK economy and the Government’s plans to support economic growth by bringing the Intellectual property laws into line with the real world and with consumers' reasonable expectations.

Local: sweet or pie maker sought by hard-working, but hungry PR team for free samples in exchange for profile raising and social media avalanche. Money: saving tips for pet owners sought by national media with over 600,000 subscribers – home remedies, non-vet products, self help books, toys and training aids Editor: seeks companies in construction supply chain with busy order books and optimistic outlook – is it time to look at the positives? Wanted: Short shelf life ambient products that

can be sampled as a way of getting rid of them for free, please get in touch. This can be turned round quite quickly to a possible sampling activity through 17 daily & 25 weekly regional newspapers.

Interested in any of the opportunities? Please call Sarah or Claire 0121 250 5770

Green: energy website seeks industry insight into alternative heating for domestic market, including; ground/air source heat pumps, solar, biomass, jumper manufacturers etc.

To even get someone looking at your website is good; they’re already showing interest in your business. Now make them feel like they made the right choice. Confirm they’re clever to have picked you out of the crowd.

and fill your page with words like innovative, excellent and dynamic. And avoid phrases like ‘outstanding customer experiences’ or ‘proven track record’. If you feel your service is the best, give people detail.

Website copy is a subject we’ll visit again, but in the meantime, here are few tips that will help your About Us page assure potential customers they could do business with you.

Tell everyone the time it takes you on average to do your job; the percentage cheaper you are; the actual amount your business has grown and in what timescale; why you sell what you sell, and how much better it is – stick to facts and figures, not fluff.

Forget about you; think about them. What would a potential customer want to know? Firstly, they want to be assured you’re a genuine business, with real people and real abilities.  Think about what questions you regularly get asked during sales opportunities, on the phone or in person.

“XYZ Ltd, a leading global enterprise communications provider, develops and delivers innovative communications products and applications for business. XYZ Ltd is entirely dedicated to Remember, detail is compelling; hyperbole is not. Don’t copy what everyone else is saying consistently providing outstanding customer experiences and innovative, world-class services and products.”

If you use testimonials from customers, name them. If you can’t name the client, don’t use the testimonial; people will assume you made it up. Concentrate on the problems you solve for your customers and then describe in plain English how you do it; and why you do it.

Sounds impressive, but does it actually say anything. Does it sum up the business and project the image of a company people will want to do business with? Does it make you stand out?

Free PR? A problem often needs a different perspective to find a solution. It’s why we offer a free, no obligation one hour meeting to talk through an issue or discuss opportunities to raise the profile of your business. We’ll meet, understand what you want to achieve and make suggestions to help you raise your profile and get your voice heard above the marketing noise. You might want to know if social media would benefit your business, or need help with words for your new website. In fact, just think of any area of your marketing that you’re struggling with and we can use the free hour to discuss it and bang some ideas about. It’s your hour, not our pitch.

Interested? If you would like a free one hour meeting, convince us it’s your business or that you are personally involved in marketing the business and we’ll be in with paper, pens and biccies. Call or email us today and get thinking.

BirminghamOffice: Birmingham Science Park Aston 0121 250 5770 WalsallOffice: Tameway Tower 01922 897107


You can't make progress without pr.