Why every business needs good PR

December 22, 2010

Teen cred

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Sylvia Howe @ 8:36 am

Wa gwan?

Dyslexic Native American for tent?  Nope, it’s normal speech among my 18 year old’s friends. It means What’s going on, silly.

Here are a few more, gathered by listening to one side of mobile conversations – not trying to, I promise, just next to me as I drive the phone’s owner about. I can’t understand most of it but here is what I am in the progress of learning.  Probably best not to use it though, unless you want to hear the boom of guffaws as you leave the room…

rents – parents, unsurprisingly

Bare means lots – I think.

Butters is perjorative.

They still chill. Chillaxing may be ironic, but is along the same lines.  And you know about wicked (fantastic etc)and sick (ditto), I expect?

There will be more…


July 28, 2008

How to tell your story

One of a series of posts from guest contributor Nick Keith – a journalist, writer and publisher

In business as in life, we prefer to buy from people we know and trust. So let your potential customers know something about by including parts of your story in the article.

Make sure that your story is short, and relevant to your business story and expertise. If you can link your personal story to your business you have found quick way into the hearts and minds of both editors and the reader, or potential customer.

Editors (and readers) take as much interest in the person at the sharp end of the business as in any of their products or services. This is especially true in newspapers both local and national – and I have worked in both. While the chance of getting your business story published in national newspapers is remote, it is much easier in your local press or radio.

Your story and your expertise are part of your personal brand.

People are interested in people
Ask yourself what interests you most when you read a business profile in a magazine? Aren’t the characteristics, skill sets and backgrounds of the subjects more engaging than the products and services of their businesses?

For me the value of their story lies in how they meet challenges in business, how they have overcome problems in getting to the top (often lack of academic qualifications at school), and how they use hobbies and pastimes to promote their own brand. The more I know about business leaders and where they have come from, the more likely I am to buy them and their products or services.

Why do you think Sir Richard Branson spends so much time engaging in headline-grabbing non-business activities such as air ballooning? It is because these fancy sideshows grab the headlines and reinforce his image – the Branson personal brand. People are attracted to his story as much to his business acumen.

Become a guru in your field
If your personal story paints you as an expert in your field, so much the better. Your expertise will reflect kindly on your business, and newspapers, journals and magazines in your sector will increasingly turn to you as an expert witness for a quote or, even better, for more articles.

Editorial articles are a great means of soft-selling your products and services. In the eighties I wrote regular sports profiles for the Weekend FT. One profile was about John Syer of SportingBodymind, then one of the leaders in sports psychology. The article was read, and the topic enjoyed, by several businesses which then approached John to apply his psychological expertise in the corporate world.

These are just some of the reasons why you need to personalise a story, when you send an article to your local or trade paper, See also my 6 tips on how to get your story published.

Contact: Nick Keith
01730 233234

July 10, 2008

In this present economic climate…

Filed under: PR, Words of advice — Tags: , — Sylvia Howe @ 10:38 pm

…one might think that the first things to go are advertising, publicity and related activities. Save money? Don’t spend on things that are difficult to quantify..?

I disagree with this – of course, I would say that wouldn’t I? – for good reasons, the most important of which is that when business is bad, and getting worse, that’s exactly when you should be working to raise your profile, attract attention, show that you are alive and kicking.

Instead of cutting back, make the most of the lull when your competitors are tightening their belts several notches. They will certainly be considering whether or not to cut their publicity budget. Just like you. But this is dangerous.

Letting things go quiet sends a message of nervousness, lack of confidence in your product, general cautious planning. There is nothing snappy about this. It throws a pall over your business that echoes that which is over the country at present.

If you are an estate agent, do you stop advertising houses? No. You show that you are still a force to be reckoned with, and you make sure people know you are working hard, and selling houses.

Which you will be, just not as many as you were at the peak of the market. The peak of the market is just as much of an aberration as we hope this decline is going to be. We should carry on as normal, not as extraordinary, I think. Affluence, a property boom or any other boom, is a bonus, not somethng to be expected and taken for granted. This is important and a good basis for strategic planning.

So my advice? Be financially astute, but not penny pinching. Make sure you don’t fade into the background and treat this economic doldrum as an opportunity not a problem.

June 13, 2008

Seven tips to get your stories published

Filed under: PR, Writing — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Sylvia Howe @ 2:59 pm

Many small and new companies find it difficult to market their own products and services. While they know they need publicity, the cost and unmeasurable nature of getting an article written – let alone published – often prevents them from doing anything to promote themselves.

Yet, editorial is worth much more than an advertisement, and putting the word about through articles (or PR) is much simpler than you may imagine. Today you have more than one way of publicising your business. Here we concentrate on traditional media, such newspapers and magazines.

All newspapers and magazines have spaces to fill. The more frequently they publish, the more frequent is their need to fill space. And journalists are happy if someone provides them with ready-made, easy-to-use, cut-and-paste articles which they can slot seamlessly into their publications.

Remember also that editors are the gatekeepers for their readers, and the reader is your prospective customer.

1) Think about your target audience. If you send your story to the local newspaper the content will be slightly different than when you write for trade magazines. Local newspapers need local angle, whereas trade publications need à more commercial line.

2). Make the start and finish of the article memorable, just like writing a good essay.. Editors are busy people and will often skip from the first to the last paragraph.

3) Write your story in clear, logical sequences, so that one point follows another, and encourages the reader (the Editor) to read on.

4) Make your points simply and clearly. Copywriters have an acronym KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid.

5) Keep it short. The acronym might just as well read ‘Keep it Short, Stupid’. Don’t write too much – if you can fit your words on one sheet of A4, so much the better. While there are 7 tips for you in this article, Editors and readers usually need 3 points max in your article.

6) Remember to include something about your personal story is part of your business story.

7) You need a good headline at the top of the article to grab the editor’s attention. But only write this when you have drafted your story.
Headlines with a number of tips or ‘How to …’ or personal calls to action work best. In this article, I wrote my general draft, edited it, and then decided to turn it into 7 tips – a natural headline.
But the headline could well have been either ‘Get your stories published’ or ‘How to persuade editors to use your story’.

Writing articles for the traditional press represents one step in building your story, your brand and your reputation.

Read more here about the value of your personal story and another article about online writing on the world wide web.

Nick Keith

Editorial Director

Life Magazines
Contact: nick@keithnews.com

Tel: 01730 233234

May 19, 2008

The truth about press coverage – 2

Filed under: PR, Words of advice — Tags: , , , — Sylvia Howe @ 4:53 pm

Become the journalists’ friend

Respond fast.

If a journalist says they need something now, they probably mean it.

Which is why PRs must understand how the press works.

A good PR is welcomed by a journalist. They understand each other, and understand that they each have a job to do.

Press day is a great big rush, and planning is important too – when schedules are drawn up, people prepare for them. However long the lead time is – and on magazines it is months – there is still the last minute rush for something. Facts need checking, captions need to be written, pictures need to be found, story updates done as things develop.

A good PR will know this, and be as up to scratch as someone editorial on a publication. They will have prepared the ground by sending information well within lead times, sweetening it with a jolly event or invitation for a feature if this works time wise, or by sending a product for the writer to try out. They will have introduced themselves – this goes without saying, doesn’t it? – on the telephone, and in person if possible. And they will then stop phoning until they have something to say.

Sometimes just be friendly. Recently we invited some journalists we have got to know to a lunch that was selling nothing at all. We wanted to thank them for mentioning our clients when they had, and to have a jolly time. Everyone came, and everyone enjoyed themselves. They didn’t feel pressurised, and although there is no such thing as a completely free lunch, we made sure that it was as free as possible at that time.

A good time was had by all, as we PRs hope always to be able to say!

May 9, 2008

The truth about press coverage – 1

Filed under: PR — Tags: , , , , — Sylvia Howe @ 2:46 pm

How do you get press coverage? And why should you pay people to get it for you instead of doing it yourself?

Well, it takes time and effort and imagination. That’s the main reason. And it helps to have done it before.

Good press coverage comes from making sure journalists know to come to you for the information and help they need, and know too that you are not going to be nagging them or getting in the way on press day. Noel Coward said that actors need to know their lines and not bump into the furniture.

That’s rather what PRs need to do too. They have to know that journalists are just people with a job to do. And that there is a symbiotic relationship to be developed here. Everybody needs everyone.

Journalists need to write articles to fill the pages or the airwaves of their medium.

Freelancers need to sell ideas to editors, editors need to commission pieces they have been presented with or have thought up themselves.

If you have a product, an event, a charity, whatever that you want written about, you have to make it appealing to attract attention.

And everything needs a hook to hang it on. It is worth remembering:

worthy is worthy but it aint news


just because it is close to your heart,
why on earth should it be close to anyone else’s?

Well, why should it?

That’s where you come in.

PRs need to send information, to the right people, in plenty of time, and follow it up with a phone call. Better still, they should spot an opportunity to link their client’s product with something that the newspaper/magazine/TV/radio will want to feature.

They should know who they are sending it to, having made it their business to introduce themselves, even before they have something to tell them.

If it’s an invitation, it’s a good idea to phone or e-mail and tell the recipient that they are about to be invited to something, and then, nearer the time, and after they have had the invitation for a while, ring and check if they can come.

More later – to give you time to read and absorb!

April 22, 2008

Warming up cold calling

Filed under: Spoken word — Tags: , , — Sylvia Howe @ 4:35 pm

At some time in our working or private lives, we might need to ring a stranger and offer them something, or ask for their help.

I spoke the other day to someone who is very experienced at this. He had some extremely useful suggestions:

  1. This is nobody‘s favourite task.
  2. Send some info first: it gives you a reason for your call
  3. Before you send it, ring up and ask for the correct name to send it to, and how to spell it. The person you ask will also then tell you how to pronounce it, which often helps.
  4. Ask for an e-mail address too and if they mind receiving it by e-mail as well.
  5. Give your letter three days, then follow up with a phone call. Did they receive the letter? If not – would they mind if you sent another?
  6. You catch someone’s attention in the first 10 words. That’s it.
    So make sure they are good ones.
  7. Be nice, be polite, don’t be smarmy.
  8. Have what you want to say very clearly in your mind, and if you must, write down the main points – an aide memoire only, though.
  9. Do not use a script – your words will sound lifeless and uninspiring.
  10. Never let them call you back. They won’t. Ask when it would be convenient to call again.
  11. Form a relationship. Be normal, don’t rush. Once you have their attention, show interest in the person at the other end, and respect their time.
  12. Let them see you as a person, not a waste of time.
  13. Don’t talk too much, and let them get a word in edgeways.
  14. LISTEN, then respond.
  15. And remember, you can’t and won’t, win ’em all. Don’t flog a dead horse – some people will not be interested, and you should respect this. You rang them, and they don’t have to speak to you
    if they don’t want to.
  16. Never ever be rude.
  17. You should keep at this for no more than an hour at a time. Get up, walk around, have a cup of tea, some fresh air… Then come back and pick up the phone again.

All this struck me as eminently sensible, and demystifies something that frightens the pants off most of us, I think.

April 21, 2008

The Good Blog Guide

Filed under: Words of advice, Writing a weblog — Tags: , , , — Sylvia Howe @ 4:59 pm

I received this the other day from Richard Morton who can be contacted on Richard Morton info@qm-consulting.co.uk. His words of advice are too good to be ignored, so here they are, slightly edited to include my own prejudices!

Although there are many reasons for blogging, a good blog is simply one that generates interest and comments. There isn’t any one particularly good writing style for a blog, but there are probably plenty of bad ones.

  • Be yourself

Others expect you to write in a way that reflects your personality, so you don’t have to follow a particular style or mould. If you want to make all your entries rhyme for example, or avoid all forms of punctuation, then go ahead.

  • Post Headings

Make the title interesting and engaging: “50 Ways to Love your Liver” might be more effective than “Suggested Limits for Alcohol Consumption”.

  • Content Guidelines

It is a good idea to break up large chunks of text into paragraphs to make them more readable. People almost always skim read items on the web, so the more engaging the first few words of a paragraph are, the better.

  • Avoid jargon or acronyms unless you know your target audience are comfortable with them.
  • Avoid overusing capital letters. OCCASIONAL use is OK for emphasis but too much is considered a written form of shouting.
  • Avoid clichés like the plague – please no “brain dumps”, “blue sky thinking”, “cutting edges”, “first movers”, “leveraging of the proposition”, and even “low hanging fruit” (don’t ask!)
  • Check posts before sending – typing, spelling and grammatical errors look unprofessional. But on the other hand, don’t be afraid to break the rules occasionally; all the best writers do. Just make sure it is oveeusly intenshunall.
  • Choosing a Subject

A few ideas for helping decide on an interesting subject to post about:

  • Brainstorm – come up with as many ideas as you can, no matter how wild and wacky. Then filter out the obviously bad ones.
  • The best advice you have ever been given – whether related to business or personal life; you often see a question like this in interviews.
  • Ask a question that people will be dying to respond to. If you are desperate offer a prize.
  • Compliment someone or an organisation; it goes against the negative trends in the world so it can attract attention.
  • News related e.g. “101 Things that David Cameron could do now there isn’t an election looming”
  • Random thoughts – e.g. “What was the best thing before Sliced Bread”

Things to Avoid
As with any other form of written publication blogging is subject to the law and particular things to watch out for are:

  • Slanging matches – don’t respond to inflammatory comments; if possible get them removed.
  • Defamation – if you write anything about anyone or any organisation, then you need to be sure that it is true and could be proved in court if necessary.
  • Copyright – all published material is copyright so unless you have permission from the copyright owner to use it, don’t. This applies equally to text and images, for example just because you find an image that you like on Google doesn’t mean that you can reproduce it anywhere.
  • Offence – it goes without saying that anything offensive shouldn’t be included, and offensive comments should be removed. Some things are obvious and some aren’t, bear in mind that it is difficult to make a joke without potentially offending someone.
  • Personal Details – don’t publish other people’s personal details without their permission, and use common sense when publishing your own.

Effective e-mails – communication that works

Filed under: E-mail — Tags: , — Sylvia Howe @ 3:28 pm

We all communicate by e-mail, and we usually love the speed and the convenience. But sometimes our messages come back to bite us.

Here is some advice to keep you from losing friends and alienating people…

  1. Don’t shout or whisper. Use upper and lower case. If you use all capitals, the note you think is just emphatic will appear rude and hectoring. If you use lower case, you will seem unprofessional and not taking your message seriously – so why should anyone else.
  2. Don’t clog up the in-boxes of other people who may have less space or a slower computer than you. Tell people in advance that you want to send them large attachments, and ask them if they would like them. If you freeze their computer, they will be furious, with good reason.
  3. Don’t waste people’s time. Be specific in the subject line – people want to know why they should bother to open the e-mail.
  4. I use the subject line for short messages and often leave the main body blank – for instance: Susan got the job! is often all that is needed. But do this only with people you know well. I am not convinced that e-mails need to have “Dear so and so” at the top and only put this to people I know mind, or to people who might. They are not letters, and sent for speed and ease of delivery. Other people disagree, however.
  5. Be brief – see point 4.
  6. Say what you need. Ask for an answer if you would like one. And if you need it by a particular time, say so.
  7. But not too brief. You can risk being thought of as rude and aggressive, so err on the side of politeness. A pleasant sign off does no harm, and leave a good taste in the mouth.
  8. Don’t be too chummy. It can just be irritating and instead of ingratiating yourself as a good chap, you will just seem over-keen to be their bessie friend. If you are writing a business e-mail, that’s the time to do it as if you are sending it on headed letterpaper.
  9. If you wouldn’t say it on the phone, do not send it by e-mail. Something typed looks crosser, stronger, more important, more serious than you probably mean it to be. Don’t use e-mails to air a grievance or tell someone off. Do it face to face. For one thing, it’s cowardly. For another, they can always send you one back, and you will like it as little as they liked yours.
  10. If you are hopping mad, give yourself time to cool down. Write out whatever you want to say, and put it in the draft folder for a day or so. Then, if you still want to send it (are you sure?) take out the adjectives. You will still make your point.
  11. Even though it’s in cyberspace, your message still needs to be written properly. Check spelling, grammar, punctuation – every time.
  12. Put in headings and bulletpoints, and your readers will thank you for it – anything that highlights the main points at first glance will be welcome, especially if there are several, and it is a long e-mail.

And finally:

Read every e-mail twice more before you send it. Would you like to receive it?

April 20, 2008

Favourite things…

Filed under: Random thoughts — Tags: , , , — Sylvia Howe @ 6:12 pm

It’s a Sunday, and I thought about something other than work today. About what people like, and what whets people’s appetites.

And I came up with a short list of five simple things that make me smile – not faint with happiness, but smile and feel pleased. (Additions welcomed – I’ll be doing my own, too).

  • The smell and feel of freshly-laundered linen and cotton – shirts, sheets, tablecloths (as if!), napkins…
  • A letter – in a handwritten envelope
  • A really good cup of coffee
  • Being met at the airport – and better still, being surprised
  • Taking a London taxi and actually saving time, instead of being stuck in traffic and ending up wishing I had taken the bus

That will do for starters, and the best thing about this list is that each one is achievable, and doesn’t cost a fortune (unless you take a cab from Finchley to Wimbledon, which isn’t the point).

But the point is that nothing on this is controversial or rocket science, and I doubt there is anything on it that anyone would violently disagree with. So there is a common ground – unless you are off caffeine, that is, in which case perhaps a really good nettle tea might do the trick?

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