A couple of decades in PR later I still find the most compelling insights and tips for growing your profile come from PR newbies, startups and businesses who are using it for the first time and getting results. So I caught up with two JournoLink clients this week to collect their insights on PR and how it helps their business grow. They comment on how they manage their own PR, the mind-set you need to have and the thorny issue of measuring output.
Meet our first business, Student Nucleus, an award-winning platform and the brain child of founder Martin Hedley, a student entrepreneur whose dream it was to make student life easier. His one-stop site enables students to shop for books, find accommodation, connect with other student entrepreneurs to build business teams, find internships and plenty more - in fact anything to ease student life has achieved radio coverage, magazine coverage, and online coverage.
Our second business, Crosse HR, led by City trained HR professional Olga Crosse, launched its consultancy services to provide cost-effective HR solutions to startups, growing companies across all sectors and NGOs, offering services from hiring to firing and staying legal in between. Olga has been featured on the radio, as a spokesperson reacting to government policy, and is growing her reputation as a cheerleader for social enterprise in the media. Here's what Martin and Olga have to say about PR and how they use it in the course of busy lives running startups...
How to do PR:
PR is about making your business relevant to what is happening in your sector and the wider society, by connecting to what is being talked about. Martin says: "The biggest lesson we have learned from working with JournoLink is the importance of understanding the direction of travel of news and themes in our industry. This is combined with making sure a press release moves this theme along and adds to it. A press release explaining a new milestone for ourselves has no wider value unless it contributes to the wider discussion in the industry.”
Olga adds to this: “I've learned how this PR thing actually works! Journalists need relevant stories that are different and appeal to them.”
And for that, you better follow the last news and events related to your industry. Using a business calendar is the best way to do so. Here are 4 ways to use one to make profit of every PR opportunity.
What should PR cost you?
As a start-up with limited funds, there is no need to spend a fortune. What really counts is to have access to journalists and the media that can get you coverage. Olga sees it this way: “The most valuable lesson I have learned about this whole journey with PR is that PR is like insurance, so shop around! The most expensive is not necessarily the most useful. For £25 a month I get more of a link to the press through JournoLink than if I paid £1k to some dolly dreamer sitting on a sofa with links to Vogue, which I hasten to add are purely in her own mind! There is no need to spend a fortune on PR when JournoLink can ‘link’ you in with the relevant journalists, who are looking for a story like yours at the right time.”
Journalists are not your enemy!
Ever feel like a deer caught in the lights? Many clients do at any mention of the word 'journalist'. But journalists and businesses fit as closely together as bread and butter, or fish and chips. Both need each other as Martin says: “On a really basic level, journalists are your friends. They need your material so don't be afraid to reach out to them, but always know who you are approaching and why.”
Take a moment to learn about PR...
While journalists know a lot about business, businesses know relatively little about journalism and the media. It’s worthwhile taking time to learn the tricks of the trade, so you can engage in the best way possible. Learn a bit about how to put your best foot forward to the media. Student Nucleus believe that “receiving expert advice on how to conduct our PR has been invaluable as a start-up.”
And to start learning about PR, you can have a look at our blog post here.
Respond to Editorial Requests!
Often businesses are unsure what to write in press releases, but there is one sure fire solution to this conundrum. Journalists send out editorial requests, asking for comment or stories on specific issues, on a daily basis. These #JournoRequests, as they are known on Twitter, indicate interest and almost guaranteed coverage to those who respond quickly and on topic. Media coverage is about relationships and connecting to journalists. The latter are grateful when you respond and the response starts a relationship which can yield residual benefits over years, even when the journalist moves titles.
Crosse answered a media request and discovered that “by responding to editorial requests you can make yourself heard at a time when journalists really want to hear from you.”
PR leads to growth
As to what PR does for the growth of your business, there is no doubt that engaging with your customers and the wider public through the media gets your brand 'out there'. Though there is no strict formula for the impact of PR on sales you can be certain of one thing, people won’t buy your brand if they don’t know you. Who do you think the public will trust? The company that’s unheard of or the one they saw featured in a blog, on the radio or quoted in a national newspaper?
Martin talks about his recent PR success: “We have conducted numerous interviews both in print and radio that have come about because of our press releases through JournoLink. All of this publicity has grown our brand and presence within the student enterprise sector.”
Finally, Olga from Crosse HR takes a sanguine view comparing her past experience of PR to her current experience on JournoLink: “Like all PR it’s hard to measure impacts but as a startup on JournoLink you don't have to spend extortionate amounts on a hard to quantify outcome.”
Olga's "what do I have to lose" approach makes sense. It's a bit like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it. Being seen in the media is her route to growth, as it should be yours.
Written by: Tetteh Kofi, Brand AmbassadorTet is passionate about helping startups build their relationships with the press, and with his journalistic experience works each day towards bridging the gap between the two. If he's not speaking on the radio or at our next PR workshop, you'll find him tweeting on Twitter about marketing, business, politics and more.