Reflections on PR

Posted on 18th May 2016 at 4:10pm by Carl Reader in Uncategorized

It's amazing that in the last few months, I've appeared in many of the national papers, on BBC2, Radio 1 Newsbeat, and many trade journals. Whilst I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that it is happening, I've had many people ask me *how* I've done it.

I'd also been asked whether I had a PR agent. In the spirit of openness, I've got two trusted friends who have helped me - one on potential crisis management, and the other for day to day strategy advice. He will be appointed officially soon, so that we can maximise the profile that has been built so far, and make it easier for people to buy "stuff" from d&t (after all, that's the whole point of any profile building activity). But as yet, no PR agency has been appointed.

The world needs strong voices where there is something to offer, so on that basis, and the fact that I think there's enough pie to go round, I'm more than happy to write honestly about what I've done.

It takes years to become an overnight success

If you don't want to read it all, that's pretty much the gist of the article. Everyone knows the fact that you only see a very small percentage of an iceberg.

Not long ago, in fact probably only 6 months ago, I know that people were wondering "what I actually do". It's a whole lot more visible now, and apparently I'm the busiest man around. The reality is that for probably 4-5 years, I've been building both d&t and my personal profile - my strong belief is that the B2B "e-Myth" model is broken, and that people trust people, not machines. I also think that all small businesses will need a figurehead that resonates with their chosen customer base, going forwards. We can't all be self service tills. On that basis, d&t needs a visible face, and that has to come from the top.

So, I'm no busier than any time in the last few years... That's not to say I'm not busy!

The blunt reality is that I've not taken a week in the sun (or the shade) for about a year, not left the phone or laptop alone for more than a day or so, and haven't had a fortnight off for probably five years plus.

So, what did I do in that time?

Putting the "day job" at d&t to one side (and trust me, that has been an amazing rollercoaster over that time, which has been both fulfilling and probably 2x full time jobs!), around that role (which over the five years has included direct business development, building out a team, and most recently stepping away from the day to day and focusing on the strategic direction), together with in the evenings and weekends I've:

- learned how to deal with publishers
- written two business books
- come close to burnout on a couple of occasions, and battled serious health conditions
- written probably 500+ articles
- devoted an unimaginable amount of time into the franchise industry, and charitable causes that resonate
- learned about social media and built an informal "brand guideline" around it
- pretty much written a book via my tweets (now there's an idea!)
- relentlessly pursued any press opportunities
- hustled harder than any employee or consultant could, or would
- stayed in so many hotels that I now actively hate hotels, and dread to think what a holiday in one would be like
- travelled internationally on several occasions to be in the right place at the right time (this includes visiting LA, San Francisco, New York & Paris... And not seeing LA, San Francisco, New York & Paris...)
- attended the opening of several envelopes, to make sure that I'm available
- put myself at risk of losing my family and friends on several occasions
- filmed myself, looking like a spanner, to get practice (luckily talking comes easily to me. As does looking like a spanner)
- studied my chosen field (business) incessantly, to challenge my own beliefs
- talked at seminars all over the UK, at times to audiences of three people - seriously!
- effectively become a full time PR as well as all the above

You get the idea... In man hours, it would probably take a full time team of 50+ to build the "3 month PR success" that we've had.

And finally, I've now started shouting a whole lot louder about what I'm doing. Nationally.

Get to the point! What do I need to do to get PR?

In truth, I don't know the golden bullet for PR. That's why I'm appointing someone to help with it. He probably doesn't know it either, as he hasn't retired on a beach (yet). But, he'll know far better than me.

What I can do is tell you what I've learned:

You have to be "on it". Getting back to a journalist two hours later isn't enough. Daily newspapers have daily deadlines for a reason...

You have to be prepared for rejection. For every bit of coverage I've had, I've probably had ten interviews that have gone nowhere. Not to mention the unreplied emails.

You need an EXCELLENT mobile battery pack! My phone usage has always been high, but my iPhone now dies probably four times a day. That's not due to a fault or old age - it's just the nature of being always on.

Journalists are people. Make their life easy, and be nice. Don't be an arsehole. They can break you as easily as they can make you.

Journalists are independent. They are absolutely not your unpaid publicists. Don't treat them as such.

Don't bother sending press releases. Unless someone should care. Seriously. Who actually would care that you've appointed xyz, gained a new customer, won an award, whatever... The editor certainly won't care for you trying to get free advertising unless it's newsworthy, makes their life easier, and relevant to their audience.

If an article is commissioned and edited, it still may not be printed. Things change. Real "news" happens, and it can bump other stuff into "online only", or the filing cabinet...

Online isn't bad. In fact it's great. It lasts a whole lot longer than paper, and is searchable. I don't know if it will impress the grandchildren though, in today's world of self publishing through social media and blogging.

Be unique. If I wanted to play the safe card, wheeling out PR scripts, not offending anyone, and not speaking from the heart, I'd be a whole lot more generic. Not newsworthy. More importantly - that isn't me. Authenticity is key. I certainly don't have to worry about whether things I say are consistent with my corporate line - what I say is what I think. And if it changes as my thoughts change, so be it. At every point, it's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

You won't make a penny from any piece. No-one is going to phone me and ask to buy accountancy services because they loved my few lines in The Times, the article I did for some random blog, or for my few minutes on camera. Don't expect to make an immediate, or identifiable ROI. Just expect to make it easier for people to find you and trust you - both your existing clients and new prospects.

So there we are... warts and all! I sincerely hope it helps someone, somewhere.

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