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PR without wining

January 10, 2011 by Ceri-Jane Hackling

Just recently I read a question on a PR forum from a PR person asking whether it was still possible to achieve PR coverage without a big budget for wining and dining journalists. I was all set to reply until I realised that if she had worked in PR for a number of years and still thought that wining and dining was the way to achieve PR success, then maybe she shouldn’t even be in PR and especially not in the “age of austerity”.

Since I started Cerub PR in 2003, we have worked with a wide variety of clients, but in all that time, we have been working to tight budgets and have very rarely had the opportunity to take journalists out for dinner and drinks. Instead, our work is focused on what some people call the “donkey work” — coming up with story ideas, writing press releases and media alerts, telephoning journalists, responding to news stories and working on behalf of our clients. If we were to spend time taking journalists out for lunch, we’d probably get a lot less coverage for our clients.

The trouble with this attitude is that it gives the impression that PR really is all about wining and dining and maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all these years, but for me and my colleagues, it’s more about getting on with the work and achieving great coverage for our clients. To prove my point, we’ve recently had coverage for clients in The Financial Times, Sky News, CNBC, Something for The Weekend, Magic radio and Real People — all while sat in the office!


Ceri-Jane Hackling is the managing director of Cerub PR.

Why being a business celebrity is the best way to stand out in your market

October 13, 2010 by Lucy Whittington

Being a Business Celebrity is all about using YOU as the point of difference in your business. Instead of thinking up a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) I’m saying you use what you already have — a PSP (Personality Selling Proposition).

A successful business needs personality and visibility. Having a clear business personality means you will always stand out in a crowd.

The world is changing – people are buying from people and social media has blurred the boundaries of business and personal.

You need to tell and share your story. You need to BE your story. You are your business, and if your business is big enough you need to bring out ALL the personalities in your business and use them.

Once you understand and accept that you are what makes your business, you’re able to be bolder, less afraid to stand out in a crowd and you can create loyal fans.

I’ve set out six steps to being a business celebrity. You can follow these in order (and repeat four and five over and over!) and you’ll have a personality-led marketing plan.

  1. Know your personality, and realise it’s all you need to succeed. Know what is authentic to you and what sets you apart — and believe it!
  2. Find out exactly what makes you unique, what is going to set you apart from the competition. Look at your experience, approach, ideas, hobbies and loves.  Find out who you are and define the unique detail.
  3. Define what your business personality looks and feels like. What does your business personality look and feel like in words, colours, pictures, clothes and media.
  4. Tell everyone about you. Share your story. Convey and communicate your personality – whether you film it, blog it, write it, or present it — make it your way, authentic to who you are.
  5. Plug your personality into your business. This is the heart of the marketing plan. Use your website, online marketing, social media, networking, speaking, PR and more — to turn personality into business results.
  6. Use the power of celebrity to draw people to you. When you’re a celebrity it means you’re not a commodity any more. You aren’t the same as everyone else. YOU bring something different. So you can charge what you choose, work in the way you want to, and with the people you want to. You are known and sought after – that’s the “pull” of a celebrity, not the “push” of a promotional campaign.

If you want to know more about how to use the six steps to being a business celebrity – get the free download with more detail, examples and actions to take for each step here.

Lucy Whittington is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut.

35 things I have found to be almost always true

May 12, 2010 by Drayton Bird
  1. Relevance matters more than originality
  2. The most important element in any creative endeavour is the brief
  3. Most clients focus on the wrong things
  4. The urgent takes precedence over the important
  5. The customer you want is like the customer you’ve got
  6. The product and positioning matter more than any other element in marketing
  7. Who you are talking to matters more than what you sell
  8. Database is the heart of marketing
  9. The internet is just accelerated direct marketing
  10. Emotion matters more than logic
  11. The simple letter or email gives the best ROI
  12. Long copy beats short
  13. Incentives always pay
  14. Segmentation is almost invariably worth it
  15. Hardly anyone budgets for marketing intelligently
  16. The customer you’ve got is 4 – 5 times more likely to buy from you than someone identical who is not a customer.
  17. A previous enquirer is about twice as likely to buy
  18. A past customer is usually your next best bet.
  19. After that comes someone who’s recommended
  20. It pays to say thank you
  21. Marketers are suckers for magic bullets
  22. Marketing experts complicate things needlessly
  23. If you say why you are writing, response goes up
  24. Questionnaires almost always pay
  25. Making people choose increases response
  26. Few marketers use enough testimonials
  27. Almost all meetings waste time
  28. Flattery and greed are the two biggest draws
  29. All successful messages solve problems
  30. Sincerity always pays
  31. Few messages ask forcefully enough for action
  32. Repetition pays
  33. People’s faces raise response
  34. The more you communicate, the better you do
  35. Research rarely predicts results accurately

Drayton Bird is a renowned direct marketing teacher, speaker and author. Find out more about him on his profile.

A meddle of marketers?

April 22, 2010 by Simon Wicks

I like collective nouns. I love the idea that a group of crows together is a “murder” of crows, as if they are plotting darkly to perform sinister acts. When you look at them, it feels right. I like it that bishops together are known as a “bench”, and picture them all sitting neatly in a row, dressed in identical vestments.

Collective nouns are picturesque, evocative and reveal something significant about the subject described that neutral terms like “group” do not. Some are very common - a swarm of bees, for example; others are reminders of a world and a way of describing it that we’ve almost forgotten. Who knew that a collection of pedlars is a “malapertness”?

There are hundreds of them. But, as far as I know, there’s no collective noun for people who work in marketing. So I figured we should invent one - after all, we’re creative types, right, and our job is to use language persuasively and picturesquely? On Wednesday, I asked our Twitter followers what they would call a group of marketing people in a room together.

“I’d be careful asking that!” warned Mags Halliday. And, unsurprisingly, there were a fair few satirical descriptions. Here are my favourites:

A melee of marketers Lucy Whittington

A buy of marketers Ian Blackford

A stunt of publicists and A broadcast of marketers David Buchanan

An engagement of social media gurus Gabrielle Laine Peters

A mystique of marketers Claire Dowdall

A fizz of PRs Emma Porter

An inspired Adrian Malpass had a stream of suggestions:

A focus of marketers

A hype of marketers

A smarm of salespeople

An invasion of PR execs

Adrian also suggested a snooze of HR people and the rather creepy feel of life coaches.

Some suggestions were less kind:

“I think it's the same as the collective name for a group of baboons,” smirked Ben Park.

A rather cynical Andrew Gerrard offered a cartoon. “Your question immediately reminded me of this: Can't possibly think why...” he remarked.

For some reason we started talking about politicians and got calamity, spin, contradiction and, in the wake of the David Cameron egg-throwing incident, a scramble of politicians.

My own marketing suggestions including a meddle of marketers, an exaggeration of marketers and an evasion of PR execs. But here’s my final, somewhat more sensible, list:

A mix of marketers

A sample of salespeople

A press of PR executives

A persuasion of publicists

A subdivision of market researchers

Thanks for all your suggestions. I’d love to hear more, so feel free to add them below.

No such thing as bad publicity

February 19, 2010 by Avinash Patil


While there have been many horror stories about how damaging negative publicity can spiral out control there is a school of thought that says any publicity is good publicity. The fact that your business is getting any media attention (albeit negative) is good as it raises you profile and is better than not being talked about.

I work for Empica PR and we have been involved in managing publicity for a controversial ad campaign by the heath and fitness club at Cadbury House. With so many people wanting to lose weight following the festive period theclub's marketing agency launched an integrated campaign in the first weeks of January to inspire people to join. It focused on an image of an alien with the tag line 'When the aliens come they will eat the fatties first' and was used across newspaper advertising, banners, leaflets and poster sites.

From a PR perspective we at Empica recognised this issue could be controversial though we could not predict exactly how it would unfold. We were keen to create discussion to increase exposure for the campaign. As it happened several people complained about the ad being offensive and discriminatory to over-weight people. The local press picked up on the complaints and carried our official statement from Cadbury House telling our side of the story and how it was meant in good humour – although with shock tactics aimed at those who had over-indulged at Christmas.

Often when a negative story appears the PR agency works hard to keep coverage to a minimum, in this case we positively encouraged it to snowball. It appeared in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and on BBC radio. Now we had a story running we used online techniques to encourage debates about the pros and cons of the advert with bloggers. At this point we were being contacted by Sci-fi sites in the USA and gym manager Jason Eaton was even interviewed on Australian radio station, 4BC!

The ad campaign sparked one complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority – who dismissed it out of hand; most people joined the debate taking the advertisement as it was intended – as a piece of good natured humour. There were hundreds of comments online with people expressing there opinions. Our stance was it certainly was not meant to offend and the fact it features an Alien shows it was tongue-in-cheek.

As part of the overall strategy I also launched a social media strategy involving Twitter and Facebook to maximise publicity online. Part of this included a competition over Twitter where they gave away free memberships to the first 25 retweeters. The memberships went within the hour.

Social media gave this campaign a whole new dimension and certainly assisted the propagation of it worldwide. It provided another avenue for people to share their opinions about the issue and contribute to the discussion. Although certain aspects of the campaign were planned, we believe the real value of social media is to act fast and take advantage of opportunities.

This campaign is still growing and evolving. An initial seed was sown resulting in some negative publicity but the story continues to provide 'food for thought' as you can see from the video below.

How headlines build credibility

February 03, 2010 by Karen Purves

You can learn a lot from reviewing old advertisements. Sure, they may not be sophisticated but going back to basics is a good way to gain clarity on your own material.

Waterman’s Fountain Pens advertised as an independent company for nearly 100 years before being taken over by Sandford who still have the brand today.

By taking an overview of the headlines, you can understand how they can support the positioning of your company.  Building credibility takes time and this is why it makes sense to consider the long term impact of headlines on your website, brochures, direct mail and advertisements.

By keeping in mind where you want your company to be in three to five years, you can create headlines supporting that desired positioning.

Now, Waterman’s used two types of headlines during their most successful period (1900-1920s). One was just the company’s name. This was acceptable as they were well known and had already been in existence over 25 years then. In today’s climate, this won’t really work unless you have a well known, internationally recognisable brand.

Now what is more important is their use of the short headlines. Here is a selection:

1900s The most important part of your vacation outfit
1910s Simple, Reliable, Durable, Inexpensive and Guaranteed
1910s The tool of opportunity
1910s An expression of intelligent appreciation
1920s Try Waterman’s before you buy
1920s A letter a day while you are away
1920s One of these will fit your perfectly?

In the 1910s, they also used one word headlines such as Speed and Self-Regulating.

The headlines highlighted what the user would experience if they used a Waterman’s Pen or, relating to the aspirations of those using a Waterman’s pen.

This approach is still valid today. By understanding the feelings of your market, you are able to appeal to their aspirations or the fears to grab their attention.

Dig out all your headlines. Read them in chronological order, what do they say about your business? Is it congruent with how you are positioning in the market place?

By doing this review, you are able to understand what is being received. You are able to change the words, the tone and the feel of the headline to fit with where you want to be in the future.

Remember, by maintaining true to the long game, you are building the future each day with every headline and every piece of material. 

This blog post by Karen Purves originally appeared at bmarvellous

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