For some, Christmas can be a quiet and relaxing time of year. The other day I spoke to a company that designs letterheads, and whose busiest time of year is in line with the taxman’s. They had their proverbial feet up and were tucking into what I expect wasn’t the first mince pie of the season. For others, Christmas is a hectic time when staff holiday needs to be covered or a rush of trade means there are more orders than there are re-runs of Dad’s Army.
For the smaller business, Christmas can be a busy – and expensive – time of year, especially if you are looking to reward, staff, clients and suppliers for their support and custom through the preceding 12 months. Christmas cheer can be in short supply and financial constraints may mean you have to forego the traditional Christmas party; in no time at all, you could be branded a Scrooge.
Our literary friend Scrooge is now a byword for miserable, tight and cold of heart. But he, too, was running a small business and had to look after the needs of his firm. It’s likely he faced many of the same business challenges as you.
But somewhere along the way, Scrooge messed up one very important aspect of running a business: he neglected his reputation. Whichever way you look at it, every firm trades on its reputation and relies on good PR and word-of-mouth recommendation to grow and prosper. As it turns out, Scrooge redeems himself in A Christmas Carol, but only after a series of unlikely ghostly visitations.
If Scrooge were a real business-owner running a real small business, how would you handle his PR? What course of action would you take to put the positive spin into Scrooge? How would you avert a Scrooge PR crisis? Is a Humbug a hopeless case when it comes to reputation management? We want your ideas, creative, serious or otherwise.
You have until next Tuesday (15 December) to get your submission in and we’ll write it up into a festive blog post. Either share your thoughts in a succinct tweet or we will happily accept anything under 100 words. Please submit your contribution to us by:
It never ceases to amaze me in this digital age, just how many people fail to the make the most of their PR.
Say you write an article that appears in all its glory on, oh I don’t know, let’s say The Marketing Donut. Fantastic. That particular site gets thousands of visits per day and could potentially get your insightful, carefully written advice in front of a healthy slab of potential clients.
But what happens in a week or two when the link to your post has fallen off the Marketing Donut’s front page? Well, you’ll probably still get some visits to the post, but the main exposure generated by the article will have passed, and with it, the benefit it brought to your profile. Unless…
If you’re going all out on the public relations front, the chances are you have a website too. On that website you could create a media coverage page. On that page, you could post links to (or copies of) all of the coverage you have achieved. Why? Because media coverage can lend credibility to your brand, and if visitors to your site can browse through your mentions in the media, they are more likely to value your offering.
There are plenty of examples of how to lay out a media coverage area all over the web – just do a quick search to see everything from a simple to list of links to flashy animated affairs. The only vital thing to note is that you must get permission from the publication before placing a copy of the feature on your own site. This needs to be done even if you wrote the piece in the first place, and it’s good practice to include a link to the original source too.
Now, I’m off to clip this article about media coverage pages, and get it up on my media coverage page (with the editor’s permission, of course).
I have seen some things. I have seen a celebrity open a supermarket and to declare it “The best supermarket I have ever been to” and then I saw him wax lyrical about his latest project as swooning young girls lined up to meet him in the foyer without entering the newly opened store in question. I have seen a launch event cancelled because the star that had been booked for the event was in court.
I did not see the latest wave of the desperate and insufferable enter a jungle in Australia in the name of entertainment, egotism and career revitalisation. However, I am sure that in the next year, many of them will be cashing in on their time in the jungle shared with creeps, crawlies and lest we forget, all those bugs, spiders and snakes too!
Hiring a celebrity to promote your business or event can be risky. The eventual termination of Kerry Katona’s contract with Iceland is a prime example of how things can go awry.
Of course a small business won’t have the resources to fly in David Hasselhoff or Christopher Biggins. So what can you do when your budget doesn’t stretch to someone who used to be in Eastenders but is now in The Bill?
Well, you could always take the route chosen by a newly launched enterprise around the corner from our Bristol office. A former Woolworths store has just been re-opened under the name of ‘Woolies’. Within the building is an indoor market with a range of stalls offering fresh meat, footwear and flowers. The new venture was opened in style by none other than a Del Boy impersonator. So convincing was the look-alike, one local blog reported ‘Actor David Jason was also present.’
A celebrity fresh out of the jungle will come at a premium and so why not go for the next best thing? With a tongue-in-cheek booking of a look-alike, you will be sure to save vital marketing funds and have some fun in the process. Make your launch event a hassle(-hoff) free experience!
So, you’ve agreed to sponsor an exciting initiative.
You can now expect a logo or mention on the sponsored party’s website, marketing materials and at the event, and you might even get a mention in press coverage. Fantastic exposure.
At this point, you might start seeking coverage in your own industry’s ‘trade publications’, but here’s a warning:
In most cases, the media simply don't view sponsorships themselves as newsworthy.
For example, if you’re a legal firm sponsoring a craft festival, the legal press is very unlikely to cover it. There’s simply no story there, and no amount of padding will change that.
In fact, unless you have hard evidence that the sponsorship generated such success for your business that others in your industry could learn from it, the media probably won’t touch it. Worse still, if you try to PR it anyway, you risk causing long-term damage.
Editors receive literally hundreds of press releases a day, and a weak story could have them reaching for the delete key for every future press release you put out – even ones that deserve attention.
If you want to bring your company's achievements into the spotlight, by all means engage a PR professional, but keep in mind that while a well thought out approach may take longer to get up and running, it will yield much better results in the long term.
Of course, with a crack team of creatives and an unlimited budget, it could be argued that anything is possible, but as a rule: no story = no PR.
You may have heard or read that a cash machine in the East end of London is to offer those making hole in the wall cash withdrawals the opportunity to select between the English language and Cockney English. This regional dialect cash machine has caused quite the stir in PR terms-the company who license the machine and service etc will stand to not only raise their own company profile, but see an increased use of the machine through the sheer novelty of being able to take out a 'Lady Godiva' from the 'Sausage & Mash' machine. But what more could it offer for small firms?
The added benefit of increased use of the cash machine could also be converted into serious revenue generation for companies who advertise on the back of the ATM receipts and advice slips which are issued. A simple idea which can be adopted by many small firms be they offering products or services. If it isn’t an affordable option for a solitary business, it could be useful for a small number of businesses to join together in a coordinated campaign within a town.
More recently, ATM tie-in campaigns have seen special offers appearing on advice slips close to payday - the thinking being that it is the time of the month when you are more likely to monitor finances at cash points and therefore there is an increased potential for exposure to customers who are examining their balances and printed mini-statements.
Do you think the three month trial of the London cash machine will prove a success or is it purely a gimmick that sustains slow news day column inches, pub chatter and the like? I think it highlights perfectly the local level creative ideas that can be adopted by small businesses. Advertising campaigns where your business name appears on the back of another local shop’s receipts or car park ‘Pay & Display’ tickets is a great way of bringing your message to the attention of potential customers.
We have all had it haven’t we? We open our personal email inbox only to find our account has been targeted by some unscrupulous spammer to promote all manner of products and services from 'cheap viagra' to ‘red hot webcam action’. They are a constant annoyance but is there anything that small businesses can learn from the tactics they employ for their online campaigns?
One thing spammers do well is they provide an absolutely relentless feed of communication to their target email lists. These lists can often contain literally thousands of addresses and are accumulated by means of clever programs known as ‘spambots’ which automatically search for email addresses online. Simliar ‘botnet’ programs are used to distribute the emails to a massive list. In fact it was reported last year that most spam in the world comes from only six botnets!
While email providers such as Google Mail, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail do their best to filter out such messages, it is a constant war with the botnets who will work to find another way round the system. From a business perspective such a botnet program is low cost to run but reaches literally thousands of email addresses with messages in a relatively short space of time. Little or no regard is paid to fact that most of the recipients find the message completely irrelevant, obscene and annoying.
Something else spammers are also good at is creating compelling subject lines that lead you to open the email. However, they can be very deceptive and are often made to look like emails from legitimate businesses, the bank or personal contacts. Recently, I received an email from a ‘Milan Hofmeister’ with the subject line ‘Your Bank Details Have Been Compromised’. On opening the email I found that it was in fact promoting some sort of online shop where I could get two free bottles of wine.
This sort of deceptive mass email strategy is not advisable for businesses who would want to develop a good reputation online. A better approach would be an email campaign in the form of a targeted informative newsletter with a compelling yet relevant subject header. There should be an option for people to unsubscribe from the list at any point with immediate effect. It is also important to note that campaigns should stay within due diligence to prevent being blacklisted as spam.
There are many hurdles that businesses face in creating a consistent online strategy but it is important to be aware of the many different and often volatile factors. While it may sound obvious the strategy needs to effectively target the right people who would be potentially interested in your product to get the best results.