It’s mid-January now and we’re all on our health kicks, eating clean and strategising for the year ahead. But it’s not just you that needs a refresh, your business does too and your comms and your PR should be at the heart of your business planning. How you engage with your customers and your market position is critical to your success. In part one of this blog we shared with you some pretty darn good advice on kickstarting your PR if you haven’t had the Christmas that you wanted, planning your editorial calendar and making the most of your media interviews.
In part two we rejoin my conversation with Class:PR co-founder, Alistair Clay, and we discuss how to tell your success story and how to practice opportunistic PR.
Let’s get back to it:
Gemma: So my next question is about the flip side of the imposter syndrome one. So, hypothetically someone’s business has had a great year, they are a success story. Now there is a fine line between just being a brash entrepreneur – shouting and boasting about your success, and then actually having a story and then being able to shout about that in the media. How do you balance having the confidence and telling your success story with not wanting to be arrogant – how can we do that?
Alistair: I think this is a particular challenge for British businesses than say the US where it is a different culture. People over there don’t mind talking about, quite rightly, the success you’ve had. So I think the antidote to this is, timid Brits, is FACTS. If you genuinely have a business story to share, for example, record sales, or you’ve just done a deal with a big toy brand, if those are the facts of the story – then share them!
If you have 10X your sales, or you have just done a massive investment deal if the facts are there to back them up and the size of those sales or the scope of the new deal you’ve done is so big, that’s its unusual for your sector then that is news by default; we are not trying to spin here or make things up! Then you are just articulating the fact that “my company Blue Flip Flops.com has made a million pounds this year” then you are just stating a fact. Then you can explain how you did that – why you did that. You don’t need to say “I am brilliant! I am the greatest” you just say “yeah, it has been a phenomenal year for us we’ve 10X our sales, we’ve moved into 5 new markets” NONE of those things are untrue! You articulate them with passion, and then that comes across as confidence so you don’t have to be like Donald Trump! Because ultimately if you do go out there and trumpet about what you’ve done and how brilliant you are and it is NOT backed up by facts, that PR will undo you! There’s that saying – nothing undoes a bad product like good advertising. So that will be short-lived PR success. And that is not what we’re about here in the community that we’re building – it is about sharing your success stories, saying how you did it and sticking to the facts.
Passion is different to arrogance. MASSIVELY. And I think a problem that we have as startups and entrepreneurs is that, and I put myself in this bracket, is lack of confidence in our achievements is far more of a problem than arrogance.
Arrogance is just such a turn-off! And you know what, journalists and high-profile bloggers and podcasters, they don’t buy that anyway! Because at the end of the day you need to satisfy their audiences, their reputation is on the line as well. You’re not going to put somebody in the front of their audience. Especially those who have built their own media channels, BIG bloggers, BIG podcasters, their audience could go overnight if you are not putting in front of them really interesting, proven guests. So you’re not going to feature you if you are just a bu**sh**er.
Gemma: Yes and the truth will out in your story. I think if you’ve got the facts and then if you share your story then that really adds the credibility because that story positions you as a success – it shows where you have come from, what you’ve done, how you achieved it – the methods you put in place. All of that detail really is the colour in your story that really shares what you are, that really positions you.
So the next question I want to ask you about is, how to develop your editorial calendar so it includes more than just your own business stories. Maybe doing a bit of ‘newsjacking’, more opportunistic PR. So a big event that’s coming up in the British calendar in 2018 will be our next Royal Wedding – actually, it’s of international significance, not just British, so anybody can try and get in on this. Loads of media and brands are going to be covering this in some shape or form, so that’s just one example that potentially brands can use in some way to get some extra media coverage. And then again there events like Wimbledon, the World Cup – things that happen throughout the year, that can be opportunities for PR. What tips can you give to our listeners to align their PR calendar with things that are happening within society?
Alistair: Produce Prince Harry and Meghan Markle mugs. No, you are right there are two main ways that you can generate PR for your business. You can look at your business and see where the stores are in the business but then there are external events going on where there will an opportunity for you to comment as a thought leader or for you to do some sort of opportunistic PR that can get you some quick win headlines. So you are right, if you are a wedding business, for example, and you’ve got a Royal wedding coming up – there is a great opportunity there. You need to be contacting your regional or local media or whatever – everybody will want a piece of this story so put yourself forward as somebody who can comment on the day about the dress she was wearing. What were the flowers like, so okay you are not going to go up against the Editor of say Bridal Magazine – that is probably going to be the person The Times interviews, but look at your local audiences, get on the local news to comment on what the flowers were like. PUT YOURSELF FORWARD. Do it many weeks in advance because reporters always want that lined up in advance. And they will love you for that. Because, trust me, on the day of the wedding or event or whatever it is, you will be running around saying “God, we need someone to comment on this – who can we speak to about this?”
If you have made yourself available they will use you and crucially because you have helped them out. So look at that event – whatever it is. A sporting event, wedding, Government report etc. Is there a way that my business can have some sort of voice or opinion, what you are really talking about is offering yourself as a thought leader a commentator on the whole?
Gemma: There is a lot of opportunity for product placements. For example, a florist, or whatever items or accessories a bride needs to have. And the reason why I am thinking of this is that I saw it in action the other day, with one of your previous guests from the podcast, Andy from the Snaffling Pig company. I was watching BBC Breakfast news, here in the UK, and they were doing a feature on alternative advent calendars. They were reviewing them and one of them was an advent calendar which served pork scratchings, and it was from Snaffling Pig. Their product was on the BBC Breakfast show! I just thought, that is an amazing piece of opportunistic PR in product placement. And that is why they do it, as I think Andy reveals to you in his interview, he uses these extended products or brand extensions because there is a PR purpose for them. I thought that was genius and it was putting great PR into practice.
Alistair: Yes and that PR for them will work at lots of levels, so they have created a pork scratchings themed advent calendar. It is a product that they’re going to sell to their customers. It will strengthen their reputation with their customers because you will think they are a really inventive and creative business – and they will get a great product out of it.
It is something that people will then share on social media because it is a really amusing and innovative way of having an advent calendar. It advertises itself through the consumers buying it and then they share it through their social media so that just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is then the more mainstream media aspect to it; because it is so unusual they get on the BBC breakfast sofa, it works on so many levels!
And that is how successful businesses embed comms at the heart of everything they’re doing. So in 2018 there are going to be loads of opportunities, for example, the football world cup, if you are a sports-themed brand out there you need to be thinking how can we either create products or how we can offer our thoughts on events to make sure you’re head around a type of this event? And that is where to bring this conversation right back to the beginning – that is where it pays to plan in January and have an editorial calendar.
There is no point in August thinking – ‘Oh, is is the world cup in two days time?’, and then think oh gosh – ‘What can we do?’ Or what most people do is you see their competitors in the news and then the next day you go, “Oh, did you see ‘such and such’ in The Times yesterday why don’t we do that?” TOO LATE! That ship has sailed. And that is why you have got to plan. So you know exactly when you have got to contact your chosen journalist about your own PR but also crucially around other external events that are going on. For example, if you are a professional services business, like a law firm, for example, then equally things like government reports or papers being released are getting a lot of news coverage. So think about how you can be a priority as a thought-leader and where you can build trust in your brand because you are seen as an expert.
Gemma: Awesome advice to wrap up – it’s like you’re a pro!