01823 271508 or 07909 993278
mark@markwall.co.uk

Blog - PR, Media & Communications

Top ten tips for a PR campaign

Ten Top Tips for a PR campaign (part one)

There are so many ways to launch a PR campaign. And I would guess that most fail. So, here are my ten top tips (there are always ten, don’t ask why, it is just the way life is…) for a decent campaign.

  1. Have an end game. You would never invest cash without having a clear sight of what you want to achieve. So why oh why oh why do people spend time effort and real cash on media marketing and PR campaigns without having any idea what they want to get out of it. It can be anything; more referrals, more business, increased press coverage, people recognising you in the street. Doesn’t matter what (well…..), but do some thinking.
  2. Be innovative. Don’t use the same old methods that everyone else has already done. Challenge every assumption, think of weird ways to get attention, ways that will cause a double take in your audience. Talking of which…
  3. Know your audience. Throwing stuff at a crowd doesn’t work; giving one person something individually does. So segment, segment and segment again. The tighter your defined audience, the better your chances of connecting.
  4. Don’t say too much. People will only remember 2 or 3 things you say. So make sure they are the right 2 or 3 things. Journalists only read the first paragraph of your press release and customers only skim your leaflet. If you have 2 or 3 killer facts that you refer to again and again, then you have a chance of getting through.
  5. Stories not statistics. People like stories, they don’t enjoy facts. So think about the story you want to tell – your narrative – and tell it. Where we were, where we are now and crucially where you’re going. And why your audience need to know this and be involved.

So that’s 1 – 5 out of the way, 6 – 10 will follow soon.  Watch this space.

The Play’s the thing…

This blog post first appeared in the Somerset County Gazette.

It is play season in my daughters’ school.

I don’t mean that the kids are just playing all day now that SATS are done. Perish the thought.

And I don’t mean that the educational establishment has given up the long battle and finally agreed that Minecraft does in fact count as an exam subject and so can happily fill the school day.

No, it is time for the thespians to emerge; for speech to be enunciated in a slightly forced way as if speaking a new language for the very first time; for makeup and cross dressing to be brought firmly, fairly and non-judgementally into the mainstream.

It is the year 6 play.

We have had months of rehearsing, long evenings of line learning, and the CD on constant repeat so that the same songs rattle round my head as if a careless neurosurgeon had lost his iPad with the setting on “Disney songs”.

Finally, Aladdin was performed this week.

And very good it was too. The jokes were hardly Jimmy Carr (no bad thing) but generated a guffaw or two. The story was well known but still dramatic. The action was fast moving, and performed without a safety net. Everyone remembered their lines, and no one froze. Some songs were genuinely moving, and voices shockingly good. The crowds cheered and clapped and paid their £2.50 without a word of complaint.

A few of the parents got involved too spending happy hours setting up lighting, running long leads, plugging things in and shouting “one two” into mikes as if the whole experience had robbed us of the ability to count any higher.

What did I learn?

Well, the small parts are the ones that really make the play. The principles do a great job, but it is perhaps the actor with one line, or just one action to bring props in at the right moment that impress me. These are the things that make it all professional and slick.

Teachers do give up their time freely to direct, act, sew, paint, coach and support. Not a big surprise to many I guess, but in my day I’m pretty sure they were all down the pub by 4.

And much as I may mock, an ensemble piece of theatre does bring out the community spirit in us all.

What I didn’t learn is how in fact to find a genie. The lamps in our house are all suddenly well-polished, but no puff of smoke and no wish in sight. But I’ll keep trying: the show must go on.

Albert knows best?

This article first appeared in the Somerset County Gazette.

 

I have recently acquired a new car. I can’t really say I bought it as it still belongs to the leasing company. But it feels like mine. We have christened him Albert.

As with all new cars, Albert assumes I am stupid. He automatically controls the lights and the wipers; sorts out my speed, tells me if I am too close to the car in front and actually brakes for me if he feels I am not taking his warnings seriously enough. He decides on my route, and beeps, very annoyed, if I get too close to anything that might hurt me. When I am foolish enough to try to reverse Albert immediately produces a screen giving a clear camera view of what is behind, with red lines on the screen that I mustn’t cross. What he seems to prefer is that I press a series of buttons so he can park without my intervention. It is quite scary to let go of the wheel and hand over control, but to be fair he does a far better job than me.

In a way this sums up many people’s parenting style. Our job is to keep the kids away from harm, to make sure they don’t get too close to danger; to plan out their route; make sure they can see clearly; not let them do anything stupid or too risky; to protect them from the elements and themselves and do as much for them as we can. Because to be blunt, we are better at it, having had far more practice. We’ve got the experience and a techy car; but our kids have no experience and the equivalent of an 8 year old Cortina

And so we very easily become the automated drivers of their lives.

But of course as they get older things change. Our children are now far better at many things than we are. They want to make their own decisions; take their own risks; try new things out; choose their own routes; sort out their own speed; park for themselves. This is tricky stuff and of course they will get some things wrong, but just as we did at their age, they will become better people as they learn from their mistakes.

The clincher is that I am not sure Albert trusts me: there will always be a bit of competition and irritation as he thinks he knows best, whereas I want to practice and become a better driver.

Hmm. I think I’ll turn the auto park off for a bit.

What is customer engagement?

Customer engagement is a common phrase these days.  Used by lots of people in many contexts, it is in danger of becoming one of those phrases that can mean just about anything!  Like strategy.  Or love!

So, here is my take on what it is, why it’s important and how you do it.

In short, if you know what your customers (users, funders, commissioners, stakeholders, etc.) think about you, your product or service and your future ideas, you will be more successful.  It really is as simple as that.  This is not reactive, it is not about abdicating responsibility for having ideas, but checking that you are trying to solve a problem that does actually exist, and in a way that the people who might use it think is sensible.

And engaging allows you to do this. 

Engaging is not telling, not broadcasting, and not advertising.  It is a conversation or discussion which aims at understanding the views of your audience.  Using open questions and easy access platforms, you can gain insight into people’s views about what you do.

So start by working out who the people are and how to get to them!  Easier said than done, but make sure that you are targeting the influencers as much as possible, the people whose views will have resonance with others.  And remember to communicate in a way they want to be communicated with, not in the way that you feel comfortable with.  Social media is vital, but only if your audience use it.  I was working with a client recently and talking about all the whizzy modern ways we could send out information to her staff.  Then she reminded me that her home helps did not have offices, computers or any real social media knowledge.  So in this case a newsletter sent out with the payslips was the best plan. 

Then give good content.  Talk about what you are doing, and be frank about what you do not know. Much as it pains me to say it, people can see through PR.  If you tell them your plans and ask for their help, most people are happy to give it.

Respecting individuals means incentivising.  Why should people give you their time and opinions?  One consultation I am involved in at present pays people a small amount in recognition of their efforts.  Sometimes a free offer, or sample might work.  At the very least, make sure they realise that you are grateful, and crucially that you WILL act on what they told you.  There is nothing worse than giving your opinion and having it ignored.

Questionnaires, one to one interviews, formal market research, focus groups, insight interviews, open forums online…there are many options.

The key thing is to do it.  Try, fail, learn and try again.  And getting expert help is crucial.

Engagement works, and the only real failure is not doing it at all.

 

Chocolate Productivity

Note : This blog first appeared in the Somerset County Gazette

Do kids eat too many sweets?

I hear lots of people moaning about how parents just spoil their kids with chocolate, or treats.

It is certainly true that most children’s focus on sweets is fairly impressive.  “Hmm, how many mouthfuls of broccoli will I have to eat to persuade the old fella to let me have some pudding….maybe 3, perhaps 4 tops.” I have been tempted sometime to resort to chocolate covered broccoli. (more…)

Voting

Note : This blog first appeared in the Somerset County Gazette 

I was in the pub with my two children the other week and they started talking about Scotland. ( I should emphasise that we were having lunch after a good long walk.  Well a walk from the house to the pub anyway.)

This was not a “what do Scotsmen wear under their kilt” type of sniggering conversation, or even a “what is Hadrian’s wall anyway cos I need to know for school” discussion.  Instead, out of nowhere I was hit with the question “so if Scotland becomes independent, what will their flag look like?” (more…)

Being 50

Note : This blog first appeared in the Somerset County Gazette

I remember the exact moment it happened.  

I was wandering around the garden, aimlessly, when I saw a stick.   I should have thrown it for the cat to chase, or kicked it around like any normal person.  No, before I could stop I found myself thinking: “that’s useful, it’ll be handy for stirring paint”. (more…)

Writing Press Releases (“quote…unquote”)

Now that we’ve covered introductions and the structure of a press release, breathing life into a story requires the human touch.

Quotes bring people into a story and, by definition, give it personality.

Adding at least two quotes – ideally from two different people – about a third of the way into the text and again, towards the end, allows you to introduce different perspectives on the idea at the heart of your story. (more…)

Writing Press Releases (order, order!)

With introductions out of the way, (see below) we can move on to the second part of our look at what makes good press releases.

Like news stories, good press releases tend to adopt a standard journalistic structure, widely known as the ‘inverted pyramid’.

Essentially, this means thinking of what you’re writing as fitting into a triangle where the bigger, wider part is at the top and the point is at the bottom. (more…)

Writing Press Releases (part one!)

Most of the news we read, see or hear in the media every day, starts life as, or includes content from press releases in some shape or form.

Whether they inspire the story, provide a different perspective on it, give the right of reply, or add a position statement, they remain at the heart of the public relations toolbox.

Over the next three blog posts, I’ll cover some basic tips and advice on writing press releases, starting (appropriately enough) with introductions.

Every story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The trick is getting all of them – or at least a flavour of all three – into one sentence.

Traditionally, the beginning of a news story (and that’s essentially what a press release is) has to cover the five W’s:

  • Who the story is about
  • What is happening (or has happened)
  • When , Where and Why

So, that single sentence of 20-30 words (ideally) has a lot of heavy lifting to do, in covering the essential facts, as well as being engaging and lively copy.

This also illustrates why a press release has to have an angle – a single idea that provides a hook and gives the narrative shape.

Imagine trying to sum up the entire plot of a complicated movie like one of my favourites, The Third Man, with all its twists, turns, character points and themes in just one line (try this synopsis for starters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Man#Plot).

But key events from the plot or elements of it can be encapsulated in a sentence covering all five W’s. For example:

Writer Holly Martins began a personal investigation into the mysterious death of his childhood friend, Harry Lime, in Vienna, today.

Not exactly Graham Greene but you get the idea: 20 words long and, at 132 characters, just the right size for a Tweet, too.

Keep an eye out for part 2.