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PR on a beermat

PR consultant, Louise Third who was awarded an MBE in 2016 for her services to enterprise and charity provides her advice on getting your business noticed using PR.

"Needing inspiration for your new business venture, you head down the pub to meet up with friends. Subconsciously stripping the cardboard beermat, you start doodling – and behold – the very ideas locked away for so long come tumbling out in a stream of bullets.

You’re on the way to becoming a Beermat Entrepreneur, the adventurous new business owner captured so succinctly by authors Mike Southon and Chris West in their eponymous book.

My e-book PR on a Beermat was born in 2006 following a discussion and some editorial assistance from Chris. The book is due an update this year, but the principles remain the same. They underpin my workshop, and appeal to anyone needing to get cracking with their own PR but feeling strapped for ideas.

You might be a little cynical about PR.  It’s too closely associated with ‘spin’, expensive lunches with reporters, and leggy blondes draped across sports cars – all good fun, but not a lot of use for you and your small, ambitious but cash-strapped business.  Don’t worry.  This stereotype is, like most such stereotypes, miles off the truth.  PR is a serious business discipline and one that can be of huge benefit to start-ups and small businesses.

Plan It

Don’t think you can simply issue a press release about the exciting news of your latest sale and expect coverage. Great PR starts with a plan, and preferably one that sits inside your overall business and marketing plan. Why do you need to raise your profile? What are your key messages, and who are you trying to get to? Once these are clear, you’ll be amazed at how much simpler it is to put PR into practice.

Sustain It

A burst of PR energy at the launch of your venture will soon fade and die. I show clients how to stay noticed by drip-dripping regular news, interesting stories, comment and even personal appearances (if you fancy the speaker circuit). Building a strong, positive reputation will change people’s perception of you and the business. Should anything go wrong, and you need me in to calm a crisis, we will have lots of goodwill to draw from! Having a monthly schedule for your PR activity not only makes sense of your social postings, but means you are ready for media opportunities such as ‘ XYZ Awareness Month’.

Make Some Noise

This is metaphorical noise of course. PR is not all about media coverage; another myth dispelled. You build relations with people you want to influence in multiple ways. Yes, positive editorial in print, online, broadcast or by recommendation feels good but will be bolstered by your conference speech, exhibition stand, award win, charity sponsorship, schools’ mentoring – in fact anywhere you are seen and heard in a positive light.

But I have some news!

OK. So I run a popular workshop ‘Have You Got News For Us?’ – about what is and what isn’t news, and about what editors and journalists want.  In essence, I sit with a group of entrepreneurs and small business owners and teach them to think like a PR professional.

News has to be topical and timely.  It doesn’t have to be about big things – the appointment of someone new is news. No, it’s not headline-grabbing stuff.  So don’t pretend it is;  just make sure it gets into the right place in the right trade or local media.  Someone will notice.  News is any unusual event, like the customer with a particular problem that you solved in an imaginative way.  News can also be you, but watch your ego doesn’t get in the way.  It can be your story, and it can be your views if, and only if, they are original and you express them well.

In PR on a Beermat, the workshop, I’ll be showing you how to pitch your story to editors, and prepare for their potential reaction. Experience is the only way to learn. Believe me. I have earned the T-shirt. Have a go. Lick your wounds. Learn. Have another go. Re-learn until you get the ‘topical and timely’ equation right.

If like me, you enjoy running your business and want even more people to know about what you do, you will love PR.  Book onto the LEP workshop and let me show you how to do it for yourself.

A core tenet of Beermat is that ‘business is about people’, so putting public relations at the heart of your business is a fundamental Beermat lesson.  Failure to do so will mean you miss out on some amazing reputation-building opportunities and allow your competition to take all the limelight.  Don’t do this!