He kicked off the evening by talking about his own experience of building a successful media business.
He listed six key points he has learnt over the years:
1. You are you own brand. So make sure you have a point of view you can express to the media.
2. As much as possible, tell your story yourself. Be your own PR person.
3. Don’t worry if you’re shy, just tell your story with your passion.
4. Digital dialogue, means you don’t have to depend on broadcast media.
5. Understand the new media hierarchy – chatter, promotion, influence
6. Influence still matters, be ready for that first, serious article to build your reputation.
This time, as well as sharing her amazing success story, she also included some practical advice for getting media coverage.
She had five years experience of working in Press Relations, but wanted to go into the fashion industry.
She argued that advertising is often too expensive for a small business. But that the media are open to entrepreneurs making contact with them directly.
In order to maximise the impact of the initial launch of her Peachy Pink brand, she organised for 50 underwear models to walk down Bond Street on a very nippy day in December, wearing Peachy Pink underwear. By spending three days ringing every newspaper, magazine and media outlet she could find (with a follow-up reminder the evening before), Shazia ensured her story appeared in every red-top newspaper. As a result the store sold out within two days, and she received contact calls from 15 countries.
She talked about the danger of entrepreneurs trying to keep control of every aspect of their business, as it grows you have to learn to let go a bit. And you need to be clear in your own mind how using PR will help grow your business.
When asked for examples of mistakes she had made along the way, she said she prefers to think of them as learning curves. Viral marketing can be effective, but you can get carried away with it. As Peachy Pink becomes an international brand, they are beginning to capitalise on their London and British connections.
Next came a panel discussion with Jonathan Moules, Louise Third, and Rob Pittam:
Louise Third is a director of Integra Communications
– Plan media work
– Do quality research
– Top tips
o Plan ahead – only a few have a marketing and PR plan within their business plan
o Identify your key audience
o What is news – look at your press release and say ‘so what’.
o Be realistic about the coverage you can expect
Jonathan Moules is enterprise correspondent at the Financial Times
– Read the newspapers you are going to pitch to
– Understand the kinds of stories they are looking for
– Your story pitch should be like your elevator pitch – short and simple
– Test it out on friends first
– Learn how to build a relationship with a journalist – have an opinion on a subject
– FT readers can see through marketing bullshit
Rob Pittam is a television and radio correspondent, he was also broadcast presenter for the BBC Working Lunch programme.
– Don’t be afraid to ring newsrooms, they appreciate how hard it is to cold call.
– It is passion that gets people on to television.
– Sex sells – although journalists won’t admit it.
– Journalists will give feedback – email first then follow up with a phone call
– If something has already happened, it is too late for broadcast media to cover
– The story is always about people not things
– Think about the audience, so you will need to let a bit of control go to the journalists.
The evening ended with a busy Question and answer session:
Q – Do you need different PR for different life stages of your business?
A – Identify your key messages for the long term, then identify the key ways of getting these messages across. Start local, then regional, then national. For Business to Business services, start speaking at events to raise your professional profile.
Q – Can you use historical stories?
A – Good stories from the past can work in the print media, but not for broadcast. But the bottom line is that there needs to be a great story.
Q – How to get into professional journals?
A – Be prepared to write your own articles.
A – PR is a drip-drip process, you may not get any mention of your company name each time.
Q – How can you benefit from an important story in the media?
A – Develop your role as an expert / commentator.
Q – How do you leverage a personal brand?
A – Planning is key. The media need to be involved before your launch.
Q – How do you find time for PR?
A – Make sure you block out a couple of hours a week in your diary.
Q – How do you get celebrity endorsement?
A – By getting your product into their (or their agents) hands to try out. Even celebrities love a freebie.
Q – What kind of PR works for service businesses?
A – Look for specialist publications. They will often have a lower threshold for news and articles.
A – Patience is essential. You have to wait for the right hook to hang you news item on. Set up a Google alert to track opportunities.