Can you do your own PR and marketing?

As a PR marketing consultant, you might be surprised to hear that I believe it is completely possible to do your own PR and marketing of your own business. That is, if you have the time to do it. PR and marketing and working with the media, whether this is printed or digital, does take time. Not just in terms of producing the content that they need in a timely fashion, but also forming the contacts. It has taken me years and years to form the list of contacts I have now, and I now have a very impressive list. This isn’t me boasting, it’s just me explaining one of the things that you are paying for when you work with PR and marketing professional.

Skills you need to do your own PR and marketing

So, I’ve said it is completely possible to do your own PR and marketing. And it is. So don’t be overwhelmed by what you should and shouldn’t be doing, or that it’s a the dark art, or this form of witchcraft, it isn’t. However it does take hard work and dedication. You also need to have an ability with the written word. You need to look for people to collaborate with. You need industry knowledge that can help you in every situation. And you need to be creative in order to get the best out of every opportunity you can. The creativity also allows you to come up with ingenious ideas and stories that really capture the attention of not just the target market for your product, but the editor or website editor that you’re pitching to. The person that you want to take your idea and relay it to their audience. And of course, you need the contacts.

The champagne-swilling myth

Some people believe that PR and marketing is about the champagne swilling and the social aspect. It isn’t – sadly! Day-to-day it involves looking at features lists, dealing with editors, working with companies, producing video content, creating plans, working on a schedule for social media, allocating budget, and building your database to ensure that the message that you want is reaching the people it needs to reach. It’s also important to be able to write. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that everybody can write and obviously you’re correct in the very literal sense. However, it’s not just writing like you did the school. You need to be able to craft a press release that catches the attention of the person you’re sending it to. That gets your point across quickly and concisely, and potentially inviting them to find out more if they want to. It’s writing information to make the lives of the editors and web editors or blog owners easier. Because you want them to include you in their features. And if you make it difficult and a pain in the neck to work with you, the chances are they won’t. This can be massive shame. I have seen some fabulous products get overlooked because the press releases that have been sent out just aren’t easy to read or usable by the publication, the blogger, or the website.

If you’re doing your own PR, you need to really focus on what the person you’re sending your press releases to needs for their publication and their platform. And that’s before we look at specific features and articles that you negotiated with them to write.

You know your product better than anyone else

Can you do your own PR and marketing?However there is no doubt that you as the company owner or the creator know your product better than anybody. And this is something that when I work as as PR and marketing consultant, I am very aware of. In fact I rely on it. I need your input in whatever I do to make sure your authentic message is being put across. The key attributes that make your product stand out from the crowd get mentioned.

And if you’re not sure you can do your PR and marketing on your own…

So you can do your own PR and marketing if you have the skills in place, the contacts and the time. You can do it yourself, but you might find your time is much better spent working with a consultant who can help you. Whether this is help you keep on track and help you keep focused, brainstorming ideas, or someone who will help you actually do the work and send out to their database.

PR and marketing isn’t the dark art. It’s actually very logical process a lot of the time. But the contacts, the ability with the written word and a variety of other elements play really important roles. If you’re small business owner, you might not have the time to dedicate to this. Any PR and marketing consultant worth their salt will value your input with what they do. Because you are an important part of the business. So don’t feel you’re losing control of your message. If you employ someone else to help you, that could be a really smart move, and it will probably allow you to get to where you want to go faster, but of course, it comes at a cost.

So what I’m saying to you is it is completely possible to do your own PR and marketing. Completely possible. If you’re short of time, lack the connections, need a sounding board or really just want someone to help you manage a strategy, keep you on track…or maybe you’re not great at writing in a PR-y way, working with a PR and marketing professional, in whatever capacity, could be a real game changer.

Support to help you market yourself effectively

I offer a PR, marketing and social media consultancy service, aimed at the small businesses, that can help you keep your PR, marketing and social media on track if you are doing your own. This can allow you to create plans, launches, bring all your social elements as well, to create a really cohesive plan that will deliver the results you want. To find out more visit this page on my website.

 

 

 

 

 

Small business coaching – and why it could help you

If you run a small business, in whatever industry, you’ll feel a pressure. One moment you’re dealing with sales, then marketing, then accounts, then IT, then despatch…and that’s just on a good day! Many small business owners feel pulled in all directions and, at the same time, they’re being bombarded with information. Things they should be doing. Things they could be doing. Especially in terms or PR, marketing and social media. How do you find clarity? Get focus? Get goals? Working a small business coach or mentor, that’s how! And that’s exactly why I do through my small business coaching.

Different areas of business require different areas of expertise, but one essential part is marketing. Nowadays, marketing isn’t just shoving an ad in Yellow Pages and waiting. Oh no. It’s printed media, it’s digital media, it’s collaborations, it’s video, it’s social…the list goes on. You know you need to be doing a combination of the above. You know it’s really important for your business. But your head is so busy with a never ending to-do list and you don’t really know where to start. So what do you do? Lots of people do nothing. And that’s not going to get you anywhere. Start with small steps. There are many sayings that talk about this concept, but it’s true. Now, if you really want help, structure and someone who has your back, working with a small business coach could help you in a big way.

Now, small business coaching, as I see it, isn’t all about cheerleading and telling you everything is going to be fine if you just think really hard. No. I’m afraid it’s not going to cut it. I’m all about action, achievable goals, accountability and NOT spending your life savings/having to sell organs to get all important coverage that will get you in front of your target market. Sound good? It is. I know, that’s a bit arrogant to say, but I’ve worked with a number of small businesses in a range of industries, from equestrian and country to food and recruitment, and ALL have achieved great things. And continue to. How cool is that? Could small business coaching help you?I’m not your average business coach. I’m not your average PR, marketing and social media consultant/coach…or whatever you want to call me. I invest in my clients – I want them to succeed. To win. Why? Because they deserve it and I take their success personally.

But won’t you need a mortgage to work with me? No. No you won’t. I’m not saying that my prices won’t go up, but I really enjoy working with SMEs, and that’s why my charges will always be reasonable. I know I could charge more. I know I could charge a lot more if I’m being 100% honest with you, but I like working with people long term, being part of the team, seeing the growth and development. I’m all about the relationship. Most people have a Skype/FaceTime session a month with follow up notes and then we review, plan and execute month on month on month. And if you ask me a question I don’t know the answer to, I will know someone who will. I’ve run my own business for a number of years too, something I created from nothing that continues to go from strength to strength, so I’m not some 10 year old life coach who hasn’t been there are done it. Of course, I’m not the finished article, NO ONE IS, because systems change and it’s important to grow and develop and evolve. I’d say Facebook was pretty good. But that doesn’t stop Mark and his team building new products and improving it, does it?

My particular strengths are in anything to do with the promotion of your business to your target market. So, that’s PR, marketing, social media, collaborations, working with influencers, video, etc. etc. I’m a bore about social media and why you should be doing it. I’m passionate about working with good people. I could go on…but the chances are you have a to-do list longer than your arm, so I’ll just ask you drop me an email if you’re interested about small business coaching.

Packaging matters – Fairfax & Favor

Anyone who reads my blog or follows me on Facebook will know I have a thing for packaging. A bit of an obsession. Actually, I now have people send me pictures of packaging and strike up conversations about it on a fairly regular basis. And I love that. I know it might seem weird, but packaging is a big part of what you do, especially if you’re a luxury brand. Because receiving a beautifully packaged product adds to the whole experience in a big way. It makes you feel like the people who have designed and sell the product care as much as you do about it. It adds to the experience.

So, you can imagine my delight when my Windsor Bag from Fairfax & Favor came in beautiful packaging. But it was actually a lot more than just a lovely box. It was clever. Actually, so clever I made a video the next day. If you click on the pic, you should be whisked to Youtube to see the video.

I’d been admiring the bag for years (actually, I wrote a blog about that too and why I bought it!), but when I took the plunge, I didn’t expect to love the packaging as much as I do and did. So, what did Fairfax & Favor do, or what about Fairfax & Favor’s packaging made them stand out from the crowd? I’ll tell you…

  • Really good customer service
  • Fast delivery
  • A stunning, well made, beautifully branded box that I still have sat on my desk
  • A paper wallet that explained the Fairfax & Favor competition on Instagram and how I could take part, a handwritten note (I have spoken to SO many people about this), and an invite to their stand at the shows they’re attending this year. And a catalogue. Obviously,
  • A fabric cover that goes over the bag to protect it. Beautifully branded, even down to the tassels with the Fairfax & Favor logo on.

Now, I’m not naive here. I get how this game is played and I know that all the things above are very deliberate. They want me to feel like I did and do about the packaging (OK, maybe they didn’t expect me to get that excited about the packaging, but that would be quite a stretch!) and the product. They wanted me to feel special and start what could be an expensive and long time love affair with the brand. And I get that. Does it make me love the Fairfax & Favor packaging any less? Hell no. Because anyone could do it and most don’t bother. Yes, there’s a time factor with writing the note. Yes, there’s a cost for that level of packaging, but by being creative and applying some thought, every brand out there can do things to make their customers feel special. To make their customers feel like they care and genuinely value their business. Definite food for thought. I’d love to hear your take on it all.

How to up-level your business

How to up-level your businessIf you’re looking to ‘up-level’ your business this year, it requires a new kind of dedication, a new kind of skill set and a new kind of attitude. Are you game? Read on to find out how to up-level your business…

Are you ready?

There’s a great saying by someone far wiser than I am that simply states you’ll always get what you’ve always had if you always do what you’ve always done. Simple hey. Of course, there are exceptions, and winning the lottery or someone finding you by pure accident can happen, but would you want to bet your business and its future success on something that might possibly happen? Actually, it’s even less than that. Might possibly happen once in a blue moon? No, I didn’t think so.

How do you up-level your business?

So, how do you up-level? Well first, let’s just think about what the phrase means. It’s to take your business onto another level. To increase and expand what you do. To increase you reach, your engagement. The reason, in my mind at least, that the definition is vague is simply because there are many ways to up-level, but that depends on where you are now and where you want to be along with what you have utilised at the moment. I’m not saying up-levelling is easy, but it starts by having a proper look at what you do now and your current position and then a look at where you want to be. And then it’s a case of exploring new ideas. This could be through working with a coach or mentor to help you plan, perfect and achieve your goals. It could be through doing a lot of extra learning. It could be through dedicating time and resources to previously ignored areas in your business.

How long does it take?

Up-levelling won’t happen overnight. Or it shouldn’t do. It can be a fairly quick process though, or at least, the start of the process can be quick. Changing the way you work, to be more, to offer more, should be a gradual process. An evolution if you will, and you need to learn and adapt as you go, so you’re ready when your business gets there.

I can help (shameless plug alert)

I’ve been working with a number of clients in a one to one coaching capacity, to help them up-level (and continue to up-level) their business and what they do. Having someone who has your back and has the supporting knowledge and resources on hand can make your journey a lot easier. It’s perfectly possible on your own, but having seen pretty miraculous changes in a relatively short space of time from tweaking and adjusting small and large ‘things’, having a coach, a wingman, someone who is on your side (and has made it their mission to learn, research and test the best ways of doing things!), can really help. Have a look at the coaching service here or get in touch if you’re interested.

What’s a guest blog? Should you guest blog?

What’s a guest blog?

In simple terms, a guest blog is where either you have someone else write on your blog, or you write for someone else. Unlike a ghost writer or someone who is being paid to write for you (or you for them), most guest blogging is a skill/content exchange.

Should you guest blog?

The short answer is yes, but as you may have guessed, there’s a longer answer too. If you’re invited to guest blog, it can be a really good opportunity for you to introduce yourself and your ideas to someone else’s audience. To further your exposure and reach. This is, in general terms, a really good thing. That is, if the fit is correct. If you’re a mummy blogger and you’ve been asked to guest blog for, I don’t know, a pest control company, well, it might not be a great fit. Unless people who read about rodenticides have also got an interest in your mummy blogger content, you might not get the exposure you want. But if you were invited to guest blog on, I don’t know, an organic food website, that could be a nice fit – let alone a company who makes products or offers services for mums and babies. If you get the right fit, you can broaden your horizons and get more eyeballs on your words What's a guest blog?than before. In turn, this can grow your following, interactions and, potentially, opportunities. How good is that?

Should you allow guest bloggers on your blog?

My personal take on this is yes, if they fit what you do. This doesn’t mean they have to be an exact fit, but close. So, with my blog, I will be having guest bloggers who can share their experience of business or skills that I believe my readers would be interested in. That would enhance what they do/teach them something new/give fresh perspective. It’s also strengthening connectiosn and, again, getting more exposure for the blog, because if the guest blogger shares his or her blog, which links to your site, on their platforms, well, your reach has expanded again. Good hey?

As you may have noticed from the above, in my view at least, guest blogging can be a really good idea if you pick the right person to work with. Another point to note is that guest blogging should be mutually beneficial. You should get greater exposure and reach as should the person you’re working with. Just like you’d expect them to share your blog on their platforms, it’s important to do the same. It’s all about give and take. Working with people and building relationships.

So, should you guest blog? Consider the above, make sure you have a good fit and then strongly consider it. It could be good for you, your brand and your business.

 

How does Facebook advert targeting work?

I love a Facebook advert, and the targeting available is just incredible. More than this, it’s really easy to set up. It takes a bit of time and patience, but it’s really worth it. This is more of a basic intro to get you all fired up about Facebook adverts and targeting, I could probably write a book on it…

Let’s start at the beginning…how does Facebook advert targeting work?

How does Facebook advert targeting work?If you have a look at Facebook and select the create ad option, you’ll work through it (after you’ve chosen your objective, etc.) until you get to targeting – which is what this blog is all about about. So, how does it work? Facebook targeting allows you to make sure your ad is shown to the people who have the most chance of wanting to buy or being interested in your product. You can target by geographical location (not just UK, a whole lot more specific than that!), gender, age, language, behaviours and interests (including pages they like), and you can even include or exclude people. You can even target connections. Targeting is great and can make sure your ad is seen by the right people, which is different to magazines. Let me work through one example before I leave you to ponder you own targeting and your next Facebook ad.

And example of Facebook advert targeting in action

Let’s say you make car seat covers – you know, the seat covers that stop hair, mud and other stuff damaging your upholstery. You do loads of car seat covers, but let’s say you want to promote a backseat cover that stops little Charlie’s juice and snacks from making a HUGE mess inside the car. So you’d probably target ladies of childbearing age. Maybe you’d go UK (if that’s who you market to) and you could look to add interests connected to children – and websites/pages too. Maybe somewhere like Mumsnet? Mothercare? NCT? That would be one ad. Or maybe you have the same product but you want to aim it at men who have ‘luxury’ cars that the kids sometimes go it? So you’d change the gender and the interests – maybe you’d think Audi, BMW, Mercedes, etc. Get the picture? Of course, your imagery would be different to appeal to different groups, but can you see what I’m getting at. And this is just an overview, when you get into it, you could can be even more specific if you like.

How specific should you be?

However, a word of warning – being specific is great, but don’t cut off your nose to spite your face and don’t make your potential reach too small. There’s an illustration that shows the size of your potential audience as you add to your targeting, so try and keep the dial in the green to get maximum reach. Find out more here 

How does a blog provide exclusive content?

How does a blog provide exclusive content? Well, that’s an easy one – unless you copy someone’s blog (and please, PLEASE DO NOT do this!), it’s your words, your viewpoint. It provides exclusive content as it’s your view on a subject, a product, a situation – well, whatever you want it to be.

How does a blog provide exclusive content?Does exclusive content matter?

I think it does. I use my blog to share my views and ideas with people who are interested. All thoughts are my own (apart from guest blog, but these are clearly labelled and align with my own thoughts). And that’s really important. It’s exclusive content that you should only find here. My blog is part of my ‘marketing mix’ when it comes to my own business. I am not expecting everyone who reads it to convert into clients, God no, but neither would I expect everyone who saw an ad to call me. What I am expecting if for people to read it to feel that, after they’re read it, they know me a little better. They may like what they read, they might not – and whilst I hope for the former, the latter is always a possibility when you put yourself ‘out there’. Because the content created is mine. It’s my words, it’s my thoughts, it’s my take on things, people are building up a picture of me and my expertise and skill set. I also like to think that, when people read my blog, they’re getting something that they can’t get elsewhere. Sure, there are a LOT of blogs about blogging. But are any quite like this?

Be your authentic self

So, what I’m trying to say is if you write from the heart and you’re your authentic self and create interesting, engaging, exclusive content that can only been viewed and digested on your website and blog, you’re adding value. You’re giving your fans and followers the chance to read something difference (or, at least, the way you view it) and you’re adding layers to your offering and your story. And that’s why it’s exclusive. Because your reader shouldn’t be seeing it elsewhere.

 

Being a Dragon at the Royal Agricultural University

On 16th February I was, again, invited to the Royal Agricultural University in Gloucestershire, to be a ‘dragon’. Many people might take offence to being told they are a good dragon and invited back year on year, but I see it as one of the biggest compliments. So, what do I mean by dragon? And why do I see the term as a compliment?

Royal Agricultural UniversityAs you may have guessed, the dragon bit refers to breathing fire. No. I jest. I, along with two other professionals, judge a number of groups of final year students (nine groups this year) on their business ideas, marketing plans, financials and overall strategy. It’s part of the students’ final year studies and it’s fascinating to see the ideas that they come up with, as well as the plans behind how they could pull these ideas off. It inspires me and makes me feel ‘safe’ that the equestrian industry will be full of innovative ideas that move us all forward for years to come. I also get treated to lunch and get to spend the day with Phil Duff (if you don’t know who Phil is, have a look at his LinkedIn profile – he’s pretty impressive…not that I’d tell him that) and Ed Jenner (from Old Mill Group who is a complete whizz with numbers). Ashley Ede, who is a lecturer at RAU and has taught the students all they know, was marking them as they pitch. I’m sure he was extremely proud of them.

All the groups I saw on 16th had put a huge amount of effort into their presentations and some had some really great ideas that I, and my fellow dragons, felt could actually be made into ‘real’ products that would sell. The students had to give a presentation up to 10 minutes long about their idea. Some brought along prototypes, we had one group with some rather brilliant logoed kit – there was a huge diversity in the presentations and the product ideas which, from my point of view, made the day incredibly enjoyable and interesting. After their pitch, they were subjected to some pretty thorough scrutiny about their presentations and the info they’d provided us on paper.

But, what’s more (and I don’t want to sound like a real OAP here!), was that younger people often get a pretty hard time, don’t they? Think of the stuff that makes it onto the news, Facebook, websites. Generally it’s about ‘young people don’t know how easy they have it’, arrogance, entitlement…I’m not going to go on about this, but you know what I mean. And you know what? I didn’t see an ounce of any of this at RAU. Some of the groups were met with some pretty harsh scrutiny – that was what we were there to do – and all the students we had the pleasure of dealing with where just that, a pleasure. I know this is off topic and doesn’t actually address their business ideas, but if someone pitching a business idea is cocky and arrogant, the chances of you warming to them and, I’d say, are pretty minimal. I think without exception, all the people we spoke to and had pitch to us were engaged, receptive and respectful, even when they were given what could be seen as negative feedback.

With a HUGE range of ideas pitched covering transport to children’s products, yard equipment to products designed to support the tech we all rely on today, it was a really fascinating day and one that I hope very much I will invited to participate in again.

The importance of quality photos – guest blog by Sophie Callahan

I’m really excited to present my first guest blog, from the ridiculously talented Sophie Callahan. Sophie talks about the importance of quality photos – something I believe is essential for any business. But I’ll let Sophie take it from here…

Hello everyone! My name is Sophie Callahan and I am a specialist equine photographer, blogger, Sophie Callahanvlogger and Rhea Freeman fan. I’m addicted to everything social media marketing and have spent the last four years growing my online following to help promote my personal brand. 

And today I’d like to chat to you about the importance of photographs. Ok, I know what you’re thinking…  I’m a photographer, so I’m biased… right?

But I think that actually, my job title is the exact reason I am qualified to tell you exactly why photographs are so important for your brand and business. I’ve seen the difference that a good image can make. And I’ve also seen the damage that a bad image can do!

Think of your online presence as your shop front. If you were to walk past a shop with a scruffy front window and a hand written sign, stuck up with sellotape, would you go in and expect to find quality products?

Of course not!

So why would you expect anybody to buy from you online, if you’re using pixelated, amateur photographs to promote your products and services?

Would you expect brands such as Armani, Range Rover or Swarovski to use images that are out of focus and not of the highest standard? And do you think they’d have the reputation they do, if they did? No. Because they understand the value of an image. Hundreds of thousands are spent on photography for each individual advertising campaign, because imagery is king! Don’t forget the old adage, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ With the rise in image-centric social media, this is truer now that it ever has been.

We live in an online world. And first impressions are key. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and even blogs and websites, are all about being as visually appealing as possible. 

If I was to stumble upon the Facebook page of a business I might potentially be interested in buying from, but their images were shoddy and uninspiring, I’d assume that their work might also be shoddy and uninspiring. Afterall, if they can’t put any effort into their first impressions, why would I expect their end product to be any different? Humans are visual creatures and if we don’t see quality images, we won’t expect a quality product or service. 

So, my advice? Invest in professional photography as one of the first and most important things you do for your brand. Good images add credibility.

Whether you are a goods or service based business, you can commission a photographer to capture what you do best. Work with them to collect together a batch of ‘stock’ images that you can use throughout your marketing efforts. Create images that can be used in future advertising campaigns, across your social media channels, on your website, and in upcoming blog posts. 

Consider getting in front of the camera to give your business a ‘face’. People like to see who they’re working with and a personalising your brand and evoke trust in your customers.

Hopefully this blog post has gone some way to encourage you to seek out the right photographer for you and give your business a face lift. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Find out more about Sophie by visiting her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube

Seven ways to get the best out of your graphic designer – new logo

A logo isn’t what makes your business. It’s a really nice thing to have, and being a bit of a design junkie, I do like a nice logo, but have a look at this blog ‘how to create a logo’ if you’re having an ‘arrrgggghh’ How to create a new logomoment. Then have a read of the below, it’ll help you get the best logo you can when working with a graphic designer…

I do have a genuine interest in graphic design. I’m not a designer- I don’t own any of the really clever software- but I do create graphics for people and have worked with a number of really, really good graphic designers in my time. So I feel I’m ok to talk about this. Here are my top tips for working with a graphic designer to design you new logo, to get the best logo for you.

Seven ways to get the best out of your graphic designer, to get the best logo for you

Work out what’s important. Your company’s name, any imagery you must have- get a list of non-negotiables

Colours. If you have preferences on colour and colours you hate- tell him or her. It’ll save him or her time and stress and you money.

Get vision. In the board sense. This doesn’t need to look like Sherlock’s ‘mind palace’, but collect examples of logos/fonts/colours/ideas/shapes you like.

Think. How are you using your logo? Is it on business stationery and nothing else or are you using it in/on products? How’s it going  look?

Fonts. Fonts can make something really simple work on a whole new level without costing a fortune, so have a good old look at fonts and get some ideas.

Sketch. You read that right. If you had an idea, sketch it out. You don’t have to be Picasso, but it gives your designer an idea of what you want them to achieve for you.

Get a price sorted. Prices can change depending on the number of revisions, but be clear on what you’re expecting to pay before you start and ask to be kept informed if the price is likely to increase.

The options you get back might not be like the logo in your head. Why? Because your designer can’t see in there. Follow the steps above and you should be pretty close, but be kind when you get your designs back as s/he’s put time and effort in. Be aware of this. Has this helped you? I’d love to hear from you in you have any additional tips.