Spreading the word

Nicola Russill-Roy, Director at Propose PR, explains the ins and outs of good public relations.

If you're reading this article, then I'm guessing that you're looking for the best way to promote your business. But now and then it's not as simple as choosing the right promotional avenue for you - sometimes just understanding the different services on offer can be like learning a new language. Here I demystify the various types of promotion and explain the differences, and overlaps between them.

What is PR?

PR is the management of your appearances in the press, both online and offline. A PR agency will take on duties of writing advice-led articles and placing them in print publications and on blogs that are likely to reach the right audience for your brand. They'll also submit images to magazines and blogs on your behalf, write and distribute press releases or quotes and manage targeted campaigns for specific events or launches. A good PR company will have great connections in the press for their industry and the skills to secure coverage at the highest level. Some PR companies will also manage media appearances, such as TV and radio guest slots or commentary for the news, if this is relevant or beneficial to your business. PR is often a slow drip-feed service as it takes a while to establish and reinforce a brand's reputation, but it's an essential long-term strategy alongside other marketing endeavours.

What is marketing

Marketing is very different to PR in that it's much more about identifying a gap in the market or a customer's needs and then finding ways to satisfy those needs and retain customers for the future. In a way, PR is one cog in the final step of marketing. It's part of a wider promotional strategy that will include different ways to reach relevant customers, business and so on. Ideally, you'll have a PR strategy alongside a social media strategy, a business-to-business strategy and so on. Marketing is a big, all-encompassing term including market research, which determines what customers need to tailor or brand a product or service to match that need and then creating a wide-reaching online and offline promotional strategy to inform the public - marketing can mean a whole host of different things.

What is sales?

Sales and marketing are often lumped together and mistaken for the same type of role, but actually they serve very different functions in the business. While marketing is all about long term strategies; sales is about selling existing stock. It's about dealing directly with suppliers, customers and distributors, negotiating prices and deals and managing those relationships.

While sales and marketing roles do go hand in hand, they're definitely not the same job. PR isn't about making immediate sales, it's specifically about building long-term relationships with relevant press in order to get lots of coverage and publicity and to create not just a good reputation for your brand, but the right one. Some business owners like to manage PR in-house, but others feel like they need a bit more help.

If you're not sure if PR is right for you, here are some signs that you might benefit from a little outside PR management:

You have a good client base but not the right client base. You're getting by. Maybe you're even getting lots of bookings and making decent money. Now you're in a position where you'd like to start shaping the client base you want. Of course all business is valuable, but perhaps there's a certain type of wedding or event that particularly appeals to you and you'd like to attract more of those. If this is the case, it's a matter of putting out the right brand image in publications that reach the right audience for you. A PR agency will be able to help devise and execute a great strategy for this. While it will be a slow process, in the long term it's really worth it and will yield fantastic results.

You've hit a plateau and you want to get to the next level. You're doing pretty well, but you're not getting to that next level that you aspire to reach. Perhaps you want to expand, just to increase your bookings or improve on your reputation in the industry. If you're struggling to take that next step by yourself, or you're feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated, it may be time to call in outside help in the form of a PR campaign.

You've started to really succeed and you can't manage all of your requests. You're so busy and run off your feet that you can barely manage your day-to-day bookings, let alone the plethora of press requests arriving in your inbox. Of course your energies should, rightly, be with your clients and customers. While outsourcing to a PR agency won't mean that your involvement won't be needed at all, but it can take away much of the stress and strain. This allows you to keep that constant stream of good press going while it has momentum, leaving you free to focus on running the rest of your business.

Getting your business ready

If you're thinking of hiring a PR agency, here are some things to prepare first: Make sure your customer base is reliable. Any kind of ongoing PR campaign requires a budget commitment every month. If you're a small business, this can seem like quite a big monthly expenditure, so make sure that your customer base is reliable enough for you to commit to a contract or to hiring an in-house PR.

Ensure that your branding is consistent and your web content is flawless. The wonderful thing about PR is that it will put you on the map and bring people to your site. It's a PR's job to get people to your shop door but it's up to you whether or not they walk in, so make sure that your shop front, whether online or bricks and mortar or both, is appealing and is the way that you really want it to look.

Make sure that your web content is enticing and the way that you want it to read and sound. There's no point in investing in a PR campaign only to realise that you're inviting people to look at a website you're not really proud of.

Have a database of publishable imagery. A picture speaks a thousand words, as the old saying goes. Professional, magazine-worthy imagery for which you own the copyright is an absolute must have for any PR campaign. Having a strong database of brand imagery means that your PR agency can quickly and easily answer PR requests on your behalf. This means pictures of you, your work, your products, you at work, your shop front, events you've hosted or all of the above.

Make sure that you have time to invest. One thing that many people don't realise is that PR requires your involvement. A PR agency can create opportunities, polish copy that you've written, submit images to publications on your behalf and so on, but what they can't do is replace your expertise nor overstep their responsibilities by speaking in your name without your sign off. PR is a fast-moving game, with last-minute press requests frequently landing in inboxes and quick turnaround needed on copywriting, quotes or other publicity opportunities. Before you hire a PR agency, make sure that you're ready to be on hand to say yes or no, or to provide your opinion where needed.

Contact Propose PR on +44 (0)20 3286 5992 www.proposepr.com

Victoria Kay
Tiffanys Wholesale Ltd
DHJ Weisters Ltd