Make a change

A new year, a new PR strategy: Nicola Russill-Roy reveals why now's the perfect time to revamp your image

There's nothing quite like the start of a new year, with all the excitement and anticipation of what it may bring. It's an opportunity to re-evaluate your business, discard tactics that are no longer working and implement a new focus.

That philosophy covers all of my interests and activities, including my professional ones. January is the perfect time to motivate yourself to make changes, so if your business has been in a bit of a PR rut, now's the time to make a change.

Forget about new years' resolutions, the only thing you need to think about in 2015 is how to create valuable press coverage.

What should a PR strategy include?
There's no cut-and-paste template for a great PR strategy - if there were, I'd be out of a job! Every company is different and will have its own needs and goals. A PR strategy should be tailored to maximise the potential of what you're offering; it should reach the right people, and that doesn't always mean the most people. The definition of public relations has changed in recent years. Gone are the days when it was enough to send out one press release and wait for the results, or take out a journalist to lunch and reap the rewards of great editorial coverage. PR encompasses everything from building great relationships with journalists of all kinds - including bloggers, YouTubers and freelancers - to placing expert editorial, managing social media exposure and much more.

Sounds complicated, where do I start?
A good PR campaign is time consuming, but it doesn't have to be complicated. If you know your audience and your goals, it's simply a matter of creating a targeted strategy. The most important thing is to know exactly what your business is - and what you want it to be. Start with the basics. Write down what your business offers, including your original selling points. When it's in front of you, on paper, it will clarify your identity and may even give you a chance to challenge it. Are you happy with what makes your business stand out? If not, now is the time to make a change. If you're confused about what it is you're selling and why it's special, how are you going to be able to promote it?

Building a strong brand
All your branding needs to reflect your business' identity. Take an honest look at your current branding; does it say what it needs to say? If you're not sure, think about your business as a person - that's your branding. What would it wear? How would it talk? Is your visual branding consistent with the message you want to send? Does your copy speak the way you would like your voice to be heard? If you're stuck for ideas, this is where talking to a branding expert can help. Your whole image needs to make a consistent statement that reflects the essence of your bridal offering.

Know your audience
Now that you have a strong brand identity that you'd be proud to promote, it's time to spread the word. Many business owners make the mistake of believing that they need to get their message out to as many people as possible, but with PR, a targeted and considered approach is always more effective than casting the net as wide as you can. Who is your typical consumer? What do they like to read? What do they watch? What are their online activities? These are all questions you need to ask. It's no good reaching out to an alternative wedding blog with thousands of readers if you're a traditional wedding vendor whose services are unlikely to appeal to that readership. Your ultimate aim from any PR coverage - as well as creating an excellent reputation for yourself - is to increase your sales or bookings. A smaller form of media may not reach the same number of people, but if it's more likely to result in a return on your investment, then it's much more valuable. Your whole PR strategy should be designed around your audience. Are they social media users? If so, are they more likely to spend their time on Twitter or Facebook? Are they visual people who might find you on Instagram or Pinterest? Are they magazine readers or do they prefer blogs? Or both? If so, which type of publication appeals to them?

Why start in January?
January is a great month to launch a new PR strategy, particularly in the wedding industry. Not only will you be full of excitement for the year to come, but it tends to be a quieter month in the wedding season, giving you the time and space you need to focus. Another reason this is the right time to start planning is that you can set yourself manageable monthly goals. For example, in February you could task yourself with writing a guest post for a relevant blog. In March, you might concentrate on having your products featured in a relevant consumer magazine. Set yourself realistic month-by-month targets to keep you driven throughout the year. Public relations literally focuses on how you relate to the public. Whether that's through traditional media, social networks or other forums, the most important thing is to reach the right people with your message.

Propose PR
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Victoria Kay
Tiffanys Wholesale Ltd
DHJ Weisters Ltd