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Tuesday, 28 April 2009

PR: Spin or Substance?

There is a hang-over from the overt spin-doctoring practiced by political parties that has tainted PR with a reputation for white-washing unpleasant truths. That may be possible for a while in politics, but Churchill's point still rings true today: You can fool some of the people all of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

There's a world of difference between public sector PR, which is fighting off media interest, and commercial PR, which is usually fighting for media coverage.
But it's all too easy to get coverage in either the public or the commercial sphere when things go horrendously wrong.

PR is not very effective as whitewash - or green wash. It's never a substitute for fixing things. But it’s a great tool when you’re in the middle of fixing things, because it allows professional communicators to inject extra clarity into what can become a conflicting and confused scenario. The discipline of clarifying the key objectives, defining the key audiences, and crafting messages for each audience (including staff), and delivering those messages down multi-channels will stand an organisation in good stead long after the incident has passed, although they will do much better in the first few critical hours of a crisis if there has been regularly reviewed preparation, training and practice for potential disasters.

You don't need to practice for every conceivable disaster. A very experienced PR practitioner should have an understanding of the media approaches and the common underlying themes and help you build a broad base to adapt for most scenarios.
PR is not the solution when something goes wrong: speedy and effective remedial action is the only lasting solution, but PR is the best communications tool to communicate that there is a remedy being applied.

Good communications gradually evens up the bad messages with more positive stories and helps restore something that can’t be bought: some people call it buzz, but I call it the confidence that comes out of faith in a future.

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Friday, 24 April 2009

The Magic of Integrating PR, Marketing and Sales for Business Success

Research shows that PR boosts sales and marketing by up to 50%.
But 50% of zero sales and marketing is still zero.
You need to get PR, sales and marketing working together to boost business brilliantly.

Trouble is: sales, marketing and PR have become so complex, they have evolved into different disciplines, where the people are all trained and accredited separately by different institutions. Each practitioner knows a little about the others, but often views them as competition for the promotional budget, instead of an ally to deliver better results.

Go round the marketing and communications professions and you'll find it's a classic case of asking a man with a hammer what the solution is. 9 times out of 10, the man with a hammer will suggest a nail. So it is with sales, marketing and PR professionals.

The sales man will point out that without sales, there is no income, but few salespeople would relish selling if they were not backed up with good marketing communications materials. And most would find their job a lot easier against a background of reputation-enhancing, profile-raising PR to drive traffic to the sales channels on and offline.

The marketing man will demonstrate that without researching the market, finding the right niche in terms of features, market, packaging, distribution and price, you can have great sales teams but no-one will know anything about your offering.

And PR people will argue that without a reputation, you can't trade effectively (just look at what happened all those years ago when Gerard Ratner claimed his products were c**p).

And of course, they are all right.

But what's interesting is that, with the advent of online PR, the distinction between PR/marketing/sales is breaking down.

Traders can directly interact with their buyers online. Especially if they can create content that actually interests people. That's opposed to reeling off lists of features & benefits expressed in the second person in a forlorn hope than one might strike a chord with a potential customer ....

And nowhere is that activity hotter than on the front page of Google. Almost all major purchases nowadays start with a Google search online.

Despite being a small agency, since the start of this year we've been getting clients onto the front page of Google's natural search results with a combination of PR, journalism and marketing techniques. What's interesting is that the results have been persisting, sometimes for months. And clients report their website ratings have also been boosted on Google.

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Monday, 20 April 2009

PR and the truth about 'free' publicity

I keep finding people equate PR with 'free' advertising in the media. While I can see why, the trouble comes when they think a few press mentions will perform the sales, marketing and PR miracle all on their own.

In truth, you'll get some sales enquiries sparked by media coverage, but many small businesses fail to use the coverage they do get to boost their sales and marketing.

Research shows that PR boosts sales and marketing by up to 50%, but 50% of zero sales and marketing is still zero.

Just like winning an award, where you can claim to be an award-winning business for life, getting good media coverage allows you a major claim to fame forever.

What's better than getting good media coverage online & offline)?

Getting lots of it! That creates a real buzz that builds business success on and offline, provided that the marketing shapes up to the hype and the sales process is effective.

But what's even better than lots of media coverage? Multiplying it!

We always tell people to give their PR coverage 'legs'. Make the most of any coverage you get by using it in all your marketing materials. It's so simple to lift a short attributed quote or phrase from the article (like they do in West End shows - "the solution" Joe Smith, The Times).

Why not lift a quote and:

  • Put it up on your website
  • And on your email signatures.
  • Add it to your social media profile.
  • Blog about it.
  • Include it in your newsletter masthead or credentials piece.
  • Add it to your sales proposals and letters.
  • Pop it on the back of your biz card, on a card at reception: anywhere you can.
  • Include a link to the article or programme online and when the link breaks because the piece is archived, take the link off, but keep the quote.
  • And online PR coverage of your news, if you've included the right search terms (but not too often) will ensure that the search engine keep sending you targeted new business enquiries long after the initial buzz has settled.

If it all sound great, but you haven't got the time the time to do it all, that's where we help.

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