The difference between PR and marketing

PR and marketing: you hear them in the same sentence so often, it’s easy to think of them as one and the same thing. And you’d be surprised how many people do confuse the two or aren’t really sure what comes under each umbrella.

In reality, they are significantly different and require very specific skills, strategies and approaches to get them right and achieve results for your business.

PR covers a multitude of channels these days. Everything from traditional print and broadcast to bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers. But in a nutshell (a pretty big one I grant you) let’s look at the basic difference between the two.

Here’s a good place to start: in a recent Neilson Consumer Trust Survey, 90% of consumers said that they trust peer recommendations compared to a staggering 14% who said they trust advertisements. Why is that?

Well, we’re very savvy consumers nowadays and we understand when we’re being sold to. When you see an advert, you know that the company has paid for that blank space and, therefore, can pretty much say what they like; how great they are, how much their products will change your life, how much money they can make/save you. And we take it with a pretty hefty pinch of salt. Because we understand that it’s marketing.

Here’s where PR comes in. That ‘peer recommendation’ that we seem to trust so much – it can be built up in the form of expert advice, third party endorsements and positive storytelling about you and your brand.

A journalist can smell a sales message from 100 paces (at least!) and trying to get one past them and into print, onto a news site or into any type of broadcast media is a futile exercise. They’re not there to sell for you. What they will do, is talk about interesting, valuable or entertaining content that’s of genuine interest to their audiences.

As consumers, be it looking for a franchise or any product or service, we’ve learnt to recognise advertising and sales message too. So, when we see, hear or read a story about a brand that’s been through a ‘gatekeeper’ like a journalist, an editor or a producer, we accept and trust the information more readily. It’s not always easy and it’s never guaranteed – because you’re not paying for the ‘blank space’, you’re pitching for it on merit – but it’s definitely worth it.

Now, one thing I must stress is you have to invest in marketing activities. You absolutely have to wave your flag, ring your bell and make some noise to get the wonderful, unique, exciting features and benefits of your product or service out there.

But you really should have other people doing it for you as well. Trusted, neutral third parties who have nothing to gain from telling your story other than the continued engagement of their own audiences. That’s the type of message we trust. That’s great PR.

PR and marketing both have very important roles to play in your business – whether for franchise recruitment or consumer purposes. And neither one will be as effective as both combined. Think of them as bed-fellows; sisters, not twins. You get the idea.

Most of you will have marketing activities running for your business but how can you make the most of them by combining them with PR activities too? Follow us on Twitter to keep an eye out for our regular expert advice blogs.

Who do you think you’re talking to?

No really. I mean… do you even know? You’d be amazed how many people sit down to write a press release, a blog or some form of editorial without even considering the most important part of the whole piece… the audience.

For instance, writing this blog, I know it’s most likely to be read by franchisors, business owners and professionals involved with PR. I also know that anyone who does read it is likely to have an interest in generating coverage for themselves, their business or their product/service.

Knowing that in advance allows me to plan, not only the language and style of the piece I’m writing but also the desired outcome. All of that means the content follows quite naturally.

Thankfully, this process is second nature to me now (after years of practice!) But, in case it isn’t for you, here are five questions you should to ask yourself before you even think about putting pen to paper (or more likely, finger to keyboard).

1. Who is your target audience?

This is number one for a reason. If you don’t understand (and I mean, really understand) who you’re trying to reach with your copy then you may as well not bother writing it. Incidentally, I wouldn’t expect this to be the same for every piece.

2. Where will you find them?

Sometimes, we all have to learn to park our egos. Whilst we may have aspirations of appearing in Cosmo, The Guardian or the Times, if your target audience is reading obscure trade titles then, guess what? That’s where you need to be.

3. What’s going to get their attention?

In a never-ending flow of media, how are you going to cut through the noise and stand out? Questions, statements and controversy are just three ways to spark interest…

4. What’s going to be valuable to them?

Most people want to get something out of the things they read, watch and listen to. Advice, inspiration, hope, amusement… what are you offering your audience that makes it worth their while to give you their time?

5. How should you communicate with them?

Tailoring your writing language and style not just your audience, but to each individual publication or outlet might be tedious but I assure you, it is time well spent. When you’ve gone to the effort of creating copy, don’t let it be wasted by insisting on talking to an audience in your language, not theirs.

As with everything practice makes perfect (still working on it!) so don’t be afraid to test your skills and refine as you go.

For more advice on getting the most out of your PR, contact spark@revpr.co.uk

Team Snap-on declares war on blood cancer!

Introducing Team Snap-on! The UK’s number one tool franchise are proud to announce their sponsorship of an elite cycling team in this year’s London to Paris charity bike ride.

The gallant training team is made up of 20 volunteers from across the UK. Team Snap-on’s official four riders will then take on the staggering 500km London to Paris ride in September!

Kicking off in the heart of London, the 4-day long bike ride will take Team Snap-on through the English countryside over to rural France and then on into the heart of Paris, where hundreds of cyclists will end their journey beneath the Eiffel Tower!

Team Snap-on Bloodwise have been fighting blood cancers since 1960. They fund world-class research and offer expert advice and support to anyone affected by leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other blood cancer related disorders.

Last year the Paris ride alone raised almost £500,000. This year, Team Snap-on are looking to help blow that figure out of the water! The fund-raising kicked off in May with a fabulous £250 being raised by team members attending the Eastbourne Lifeboat family fun day.

“We’re so proud to be able to sponsor the team help raise money for such an amazing cause. Many of our friends and loved ones here at Snap-on have been touched by one of the terrible diseases that Bloodwise is working tirelessly to eradicate. We’re one big family and the whole company, franchisees and head office alike, are going to be supporting our cyclists 100%, raising awareness and getting involved where we can… you might even catch us in some team shorts!” enthuses Lisa Law, Snap-on’s Franchise Manager

As well as the gruelling day-to-day training, the 20-strong training team will also be participating in numerous charity rides and organised sportives across the country. In total, the team expects to cover more than 20,000 miles during training. Anyone else’s legs aching at that thought?!

Watch out for the Team Snap-on jerseys on roads near you and please, lend your support to this amazing charity and team of inspirational riders.

Please give what you can to help this amazing charity bring an end to blood cancer.

https://www.justgiving.com/Mark-Forsyth2016

Twitter: @TeamSnapon

www.TeamSnapon.com

7 deadly PR sins series: Wrath

Sin

Not to be confused with slagging off the competition! The PR sin of wrath focuses on how you conduct yourself when faced with negativity in a public forum which, let’s be honest, these days means mainly online.

We all know (or at least most of us do!) how to behave when networking or at industry events but, weirdly, when it comes to online and print mediums, the safety of being behind that laptop screen or pen can lead some of us to let loose our inner wrath. This is almost always detrimental to your personal profile and, consequently, your business.

There are 3 main triggers:

  • A negative review from a customer
  • Misquotes and factually incorrect statements
  • And, less common but it still happens: a poor write-up/expose from a journalist.

Don’t wait for it to happen!

When faced with any of the above, frustrations run high and that fury-filled monster rattles the bars on his cage. The key is not to let your initial personal feelings (usually anger, indignation… wrath) form the basis for your reaction and, ultimately, your responses. What can you do? It’s simple really…

As part of your PR strategy, you should always have a crisis plan. This is a company-wide policy that dictates how any negative PR is responded to, by whom and in what format. It will outline, step-by-step, what actions should be taken in the event of a potentially damaging comment or story.

Here are the main elements to consider when putting your crisis plan together:

  • Speed of response: a timely response is crucial. BUT leave emotions at the door, especially on social media where things can get out of hand very quickly. Leave ‘wrath’ at the door.
  • Who responds: decide who is going to represent your company in these situations and don’t fall foul of throwing employees under the bus by making them do it if someone has made a genuine mistake. A senior figure within the company is best as this subtly reassures not just the individual in question but also the general public that you take things seriously.
  • Tone of voice: the customer is always right. Remember hearing that and rolling your eyes? When it comes to negative PR you need to be singing that to yourself in your head as you craft your public response. No matter what you are actually feeling, apologise for the negative experience, faulty product, poor service; whatever the issue might be. And do so genuinely.
  • Making it right – there’s often the opportunity to turn a negative experience into a PR triumph. What can you do for your customer or client that they will genuinely value and has enough thought behind it for them to share the gesture with others? This does NOT mean throw money at them! Actions can be as insulting as words.

You will get a bad review at some point. Fact. It’s irresponsible to assume it’s never going to happen to you. We’re all human and people make genuine mistakes. How you handle it publicly can be more important and have a longer-lasting impact on your brand than the initial negativity. So, make a plan, make sure everyone knows exactly how to follow it and then get on with your business safe in the knowledge your inner wrath will stay safely in its cage.

7 deadly PR sins series: Ignorance

Can you be ignorant without knowing it? Are you sometimes rude? Is it possible that your press releases earn you nothing more than an irritated eye-roll when read? I would put money on it. Want to know why?

You’re so caught up in your brand and getting your message out there you’ve forgotten about the most important people in the equation. I’ll give you a clue… It’s called PUBLIC relations.

PR is about communicating with the public. More specifically, with your target audience. Interacting with the right people is one of the things that turns good PR into great PR. So, do your research and work out what titles your customers are most likely to read. Make a hit list of the top online, print and social outlets in which you would like coverage.

Now you know where you would like to be featured, here are three ways to help make it happen and avoid being labelled as ignorant or lazy:

  1. Be a customer – buy, subscribe to and/or just get your hands on the publications you want to be in. Then… Shock! Horror! Actually read them. How can you possibly expect an editor to take you seriously if what you send to them is so far from their usual content that they would have to completely rewrite to make it work? Or if it’s totally off-piste and would alienate or worse, offend their readership? Seems ignorant of you doesn’t it?
  2. Write pitches and articles to suit the publication – pay attention to the tone and the language used. Watch out for the styles of the articles and any regular themes or features. Tailor your pitches and press releases to show that you understand their content and can provide value for readers. For example, avoid sending in lengthy opinion pieces when they clearly prefer to use Q&A style articles. It makes you look… yes, you guessed it.
  3. Get in touch – with just a little bit of effort you can have a lot of impact. Try actually speaking to a reporter or editor to find out exactly they kind of content they are looking for. Yes, they are busy people so won’t want a lengthy discussion but a quick chat to ask a few pre-prepared questions will serve you well for months to come.

The more you practice this the better at it you will become. What you build by repeating the process is a more efficient, more successful and, ultimately, more rewarding system for your PR efforts.

If you take anything away from this blog let it be this: being great at PR isn’t about sending out a blanket email to 200 contacts and hoping that one or more of them will pick up and run your piece. Go be an informed PR professional instead!

7 deadly PR sins series: Indulgence

Sin 2: Indulging yourself

It’s a hard one for me to write this one. Mainly because I’m guilty of it myself and, on so many occasions, have to slap my own wrists. What do I mean by indulging yourself?  Allow me to explain…

As a creative writer, I’m prone to long, descriptive sentences reminiscent of the novellas I so loved as a child which are designed to bring to life an idea so vividly that my reader cannot help but be immersed in the beautifully constructed imagery I create though my words. See?

All well and good if you’re writing a romantic novel. The trouble is that when it comes to PR, your message gets lost in the (albeit quite lovely) flowery verbiage.

Here are three tips to help keep you on the straight and narrow:

  • Keep it simple – great PR isn’t about using the biggest, most complex words you can think of. It’s about communicating a story or idea in the clearest way possible. In order to make your writing more accessible, you need to keep it simple. As soon as you overcomplicate things you’re going to lose your readers’ attention.
  • Avoid jargon – unless you’ve been asked to write something very specific for an audience in the know – leave jargon at the door. People these days lead busy lives. They don’t want to read something that looks like a page from a text book. You know yourself that when you read something what matters most is that you can read it easily, quickly and don’t need a degree in a particular field of study to find it useful.
  • Break the rules – sometimes you have to unlearn the basics. Strictly speaking, I know I was always taught not to start a sentence with ‘but’ or ‘and’. But it can give your writing some punch. Short, snappy sentences beat long drawn-out ones every time. You’re competing for attention. Grab it. Start at the end; tell your story out of sync. It can be surprisingly engaging. And that’s just what you want.

I love writing, I can’t help myself. But if, like me, you have a tendency to get carried away, don’t despair. There’s hope!  Before I start writing I remind myself of three things:

  • Who am I writing for (audience)
  • Why am I writing it (goal)
  • What am I trying to say (storyline).

Then I tend to write my sentences regardless. It’s how I work and it’s how the words come spilling out of my head. I swear they almost have a tune as they come out. Once they are down on paper (or rather screen) I can then go back and unpick any waffle.

The skill here is to recognise that you do it and be able to put it right before you release it. It takes a bit of practice but it’s one of the most valuable writing tools you can master. Happy writing!

 

 

7 deadly PR sins

Over the next few weeks we’re going to share with you seven of the biggest PR sins. They are often easy to commit, will undoubtedly hinder your PR efforts and, in some cases, can be damaging to your personal image and brand profile. Read on (if you dare) to find out if you’re guilty and what to do if you’ve fallen foul…

Sin 1: Slagging off the competition
Yes, really… that. No matter what industry or sector you operate in, you’re going to have competition. It’s a fact. Even charities have to compete for people’s time and generosity with other, similar organisations. But regardless of your personal feelings, don’t ever do it. Here’s why:
1) It’s just plain tacky. And it makes you look wildly unprofessional. Brand profile is everything in this day and age. Professionalism, ethics, quality and trustworthiness are the cornerstones of any successful brand’s image. If you resort to insults, however subtle you think they may be, they will be recognised in an instant for exactly what they are. Not cool.

2) If you’re willing to publicly pull-down or belittle your competition, what are you saying about your suppliers, affiliates and, heaven forbid, customers, behind closed doors? Nothing? That’s as well may be but you can guarantee it will cross their minds. Do you want that to be the reason that people talk about your brand?

3) It actually makes it look like you’ve got something to worry about. If the only way you can find to promote your business is by making negative or patronising comments about your competitors (or anyone else for that matter) in your own marketing, it can seem like you feel threatened and are attempting to combat another’s success with negativity.
So, if you’ve ever made this faux pas, here’s what to do: don’t ever do it again.

Then, instead of pulling the competition to pieces, do you want to know the most powerful thing you can do? Act like they don’t exist. Focus on your strengths, not their weaknesses. Win by being the best. Get ahead by offering the best products and services. Focus on what you do well and shout it from the rooftops. Build your cornerstones: Professionalism, Ethics, Quality and Trustworthiness.

So the next time you’re writing your PR, your newsletter, your e-shot – whatever it might be. Be careful that you don’t drift into a negative headspace. We’re all better than that.

Bad news travel faster

You’d better believe it!  

And these days it’s not just word of mouth you have to worry about. The likes of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook never sleep. Boundaries have been broken down and now anyone can (and will) share their views and experiences with others, be it good, bad or ugly.

We often make the mistake of thinking that we’re smarter than the people we’re selling to. Fall into this trap at your peril. Today’s buyers are savvy and are on the lookout for any hint of negativity or unrest in the network or potential problems with the product or service they’ll be expected to provide.

What is bad news?

Different issues cause concern for different people so ‘bad news’ can mean one of many things. Disgruntled franchisees, dissatisfied customers, poor sales, a stagnant network. None of it is a laughing matter and ALL of it is guaranteed to have a negative impact on your franchise recruitment and growth.

Things go wrong, they’re bound to from time to time. Addressing them quickly and directly is crucial for a positive resolution. Particularly if it’s initiated publicly. The key in this situation is not to panic and not to let emotions rule common sense or good business strategy. Dealt with correctly, even a mistake can be turned into a positive PR effort.

PR = Public Relations, so remember:

Be polite at all times: rudeness will immediately damage your brand and reputation. Be polite, not condescending and try to genuinely relate to the party feeling injured to understand what went wrong and how you can fix it.

Respond with facts: this can’t be stressed enough. Facts and facts only. Not opinion and not an emotional response other than to express an apology for inconvenience. Respond with what you know, not what you assume.

Apologise if you got it wrong: crucial for public image. Know when to say sorry. You’ll be amazed at how this can diffuse a situation.

Small gestures go a long way: be seen to be trying to put the situation right. Money isn’t always the answer. Understanding your customer profile will help you to offer a solution that will be best received.

When managed correctly, these resolutions are just as powerful as your good news and success stories. They clearly demonstrate that as a brand and as a franchisor you are open, honest and, most importantly, care about those that you do business with.

You could be forgiven for wondering how this fits into your franchise recruitment strategy. Well, the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what you’re spending on print, exhibitions, online listings or eshots in order to entice prospects into your pipeline. If things fall down at due diligence stage then it’s been a waste of money, pure and simple.

Contact us at spark@revpr.co.uk to find out more about managing and utilising PR to rev up your franchise recruitment.

Good news travels fast

But do you know how to harness the most powerful recruitment tool available to you?

Good news and success stories are incredibly useful for franchise recruitment and also to maintain a buoyant consumer market. It’s as close to stating the obvious as we’ll get but being able to take a step back and identify the positives in your network is something that a lot of franchisors tell us that they struggle with.

It’s a simple concept that’s not always easy to execute. In order to progress smoothly and with any real pace or purpose, prospects need to see and hear relevant positive stories at every stage of the recruitment process. Here are a few easy tips to help you to do just that:

Give them a reason to compliment you: believe it or not, a happy by-product of social media is that people are more inclined to offer praise and compliments when they have a great experience. So give them one! Ensure your social media forms part of your PR campaigns, interact with prospects and customers without trying to sell to them. You’ll be amazed what comes out.

Blow your own trumpet: franchisee smashed their sales target? Products won awards? Helped a family achieve their ‘mortgage free’ dream? Shout about it. Press releases and case studies should be used to promote these positive stories at every stage of the process. Being able to identify with an existing franchisee and see themselves emulating that success is one of the most powerful tools of persuasion for converting a prospect.

Make it about them, not you: people will buy because of what your brand can do for them. Not you. It’s great if you’ve had multiple sign ups or beaten your own targets but that shouldn’t be the main focus for your PR. Instead focus on how those that have already bought your franchise have benefitted and how those who haven’t yet, stand to.

Happy customers = happy franchisees: What makes a happy customer? Great products and great service. Your franchisees will undoubtedly be providing both so you need to help them really get ahead by pushing that message out to the rest of the world. Linking consumer PR to franchise recruitment is a trick some franchisors are still missing. Boosting brand awareness amongst target consumers will ultimately lead to more sales for franchisees. And have you met a franchisee with a profitable, growing business who is likely to give negative feedback to anyone at due diligence stage? Didn’t think so.

So what am I saying today? Using PR effectively is about more than just understanding what you need to say; you have to know when to say it too. So, remember to look for those positive stories. And once you have them, feed them into focused PR campaigns that hit prospects in the right place at the right time.

To make the most of the successes happening within your network (or to get help finding them!) contact us for more information at spark@revpr.co.uk

The biggest mistake in franchise lead conversion

Time kills conversations. There, we said it!

For better or worse, we’re living in the age of ‘now’. It’s a time of ‘instant’, of ‘on-demand’ and ‘on-the-go’. We’re no longer tied to our desks, offices, homes or even our computers to do business, conduct research and say YES.

There’s no escaping the fact that digital and social platforms have built an expectation amongst consumers (that includes your prospects remember!). An expectation that their immediate needs for information and contact can be gratified… instantly.

FACT: Response time is key on initial franchise conversations

Yet many franchisors tell us that they struggle to keep up with this insatiable desire by prospects who want a more social and interactive response to their enquiries. Sound familiar?

You’re certainly not alone but you do need to rev things up. Here are a few crucial points to help you move into the fast lane:

Respond instantly: No more setting time aside once or twice a week to sift through enquiries. Respond in kind as soon as that lead hits. You don’t need to be sending war and peace, it’s the contact that counts. Say hello, say thank you and offer a few nuggets… take it from there.

Get personal: Don’t be a robot. Auto-response is easy but a prospect will appreciate the time taken to respond in a way that shows you’re a person and that you understand they are too. Consider personalised video responses for a ‘wow’ factor.

Follow their lead: Ensure your method of communication mirrors that of your prospect. If they’ve chosen to email you, that’s where they feel most comfortable so don’t expect to pick up the phone for a chat just yet. Email them back to open dialogue.

The takeaway here is that response time is key. You can be sure that if you aren’t following up on your leads promptly and enthusiastically, someone else is.

For more advice on how to revive your lead handling process or for an experienced hand to take things up a gear, contact Dan Archer at spark@revpr.co.uk