PR support – what options are out there?

Exploring the PR Path: Public Relations for a small business

By Pauline de Villiers Brettell

Hiring someone to do your PR can feel like a big step for a small business. As things shift into the online environment where there is a platform or an app for pretty much everything, with that often comes the (self) expectation that we can ‘do it all’.

And generally, yes – we can do a lot. We can take pretty good pictures with our phones, chat openly and honestly on Instagram about the story behind the brand, and we can interact with our peers on LinkedIn, but with the choice of channels and platforms available, it is easy to misdirect energy.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses – you might be confident to go with the styling and photography of your designs, but less so with the words required to tell your story. Maybe the ideas are your strong point, and the execution lets you down. The simple answer is to play to your strengths, and having identified your weak points, find the service or the person out there that will fill in the gaps on your PR skills.

“Too often people think of PR as publicity, or press coverage, when actually PR considers where to tell your story based on your target audience. It includes speaking engagements, launch strategy, guest posting, social media, email newsletters, blogs, podcasts and collaborations and partnerships. So, when it comes to choosing where to focus, it’s worth considering what feels most enjoyable and easiest to maintain, because consistency is key to getting PR results.”, says the Bridie Hinson, Founder of Why You Create.

What is clear, having spent some time exploring the PR playing field for the purposes of this article, is that there is a broad range of skilled and enthusiastic offerings out there, from the whole singing and dancing creative package to more niche expertise. There are services for those on strict PR budgets or you can step onto the centre stage and get a professional on board to work hard in directing that PR spotlight right where you need it.

To help you navigate the publicity realm and find out what works for you, we have explored what PR options are out there for lifestyle and interiors brands specifically.

PR options – what’s out there?

Generally speaking, we discovered two main PR solutions on the market. Both depend on your own PR skillset, knowledge, time and money.

If your budget is very limited and you have time to learn and do most of the legwork yourself, then a PR subscription option might be for you. Companies such as PR Dispatch provide self-learning PR platforms where you can learn and feel supported by the community. For example, PR Dispatch teaches lifestyle brands PR skills and provides PR support and access to media requests and call outs. Focusing predominantly on product placement features, the team behind this platform helps you gain exposure online and in print.

If, however, you are short on time and need more specific support and expertise, then working with a PR agency might be a better solution for you. For interiors brands, Byrne Comms is a PR and marketing agency working across the interior, design, craft architecture and luxury lifestyle sector. The agency specialises in developing unique brand stories and working with the team delivers press feature results in highly respected mainstream and industry press, both online and in print.

For lifestyle brands (fashion, home, beauty) there are endless options and PR service providers available to you, but Platform Creative stands out for us. They specialise in developing brand exposure predominantly through editorial content and storytelling, and therefore deliver results associated with such press features.

As with everything else these days, there is also the in-between. If you only need to learn how to create your own PR strategy, then hiring a PR consultant for one-off session might be for you. One of them is Why You Create who works with creative businesses helping them to learn PR strategy.

When considering these options, the next obvious question is, how much will it cost?

PR costs – how much?

Considering our recommendations above as well as the industry standards, as the old adage says, you get what you pay for.  For a full professional PR package, you will probably be investing upwards of £2000 / month and considerably more for high end agencies in the luxury market. If that is the route you are comfortable with, you should in turn expect the agency to immerse themselves in your brand and drive it forward across the channels that you have, together identified as being key to your business. Different agencies will have different strengths – both in terms of industry and medium.

At the lower end of the spectrum, if you are not ready to commit to the whole PR package, you can expect a much more budget friendly price tag from hiring a PR consultant for one-off session, smaller monthly retainer, or mentoring.

As Why You Create says, “Many PR consultants offer one-off power hours, ongoing mentoring, and strategy packages which will equip you with the knowledge and assets you need to do your own PR. While this will require some time commitment, when you know what you need to do you can achieve great results with consistent, small chunks of effort.”

And if you are just starting out and feel that PR subscription service is a good option for you, expect to pay from around £50 / month.

What Return On Investment – ROI – can you expect from PR?

Whatever service you go for, the next obvious question is how do you know if it is working?  It can be difficult to isolate the one thing that is driving traffic to your site, generating sales and generally getting you noticed. Who would have thought that getting featured in a magazine roundup would have continued to send customers your way six months later because it had found its way into a doctors’ waiting room…!

Rosie from PR Dispatch says: “In terms of ROI on PR – this is very difficult for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s hard to track. If you have a product featured in a printed magazine, for example, you won’t know how many people came to your website or followed you on social media from seeing you in that article. PR is mainly about driving awareness of your brand, product or story (to create an emotional connection) and then your marketing efforts once that person is in your sales funnel (aware of your brand, following you on social, on your mailing list) should turn the person into a paying customer. Whether you invest in working with an agency or do PR yourself, PR outreach should be an activity that you do consistently for the lifetime of your business.”

Karolina from Studio/Estila adds: “PR outcomes (or ROI) can only be measured against set expectations. We always recommend starting with brand awareness and visibility, which can lead to building brand reputation, authority, and trust. As Rosie touched on, any good PR strategy needs to be supported by marketing and sales strategies that work hard on converting the press-gained traffic and visibility into sales. But sales as a ROI in PR is really just a bonus. Any great PR effort is rewarded by many benefits, it’s about reframing expectations and measure the ROI accordingly.”

What are some of the top tips that can help generate great PR results?

We asked these experts in the field…

Studio Estila: Start with a strong story that is not only interesting but is unique and memorable. Think about the purpose of your product or your brand and how it helps readers in their life. Find the right publications that align well with the story angle but also visually to your brand. And finally, invest in story-driven photography that helps to convey and support the story emotionally. The more memorable the visuals are, the better.

Why You Create: Borrow audiences. Rather than thinking about the size, think: what media does your audience consume? Target those publications. On social media, collaborate with accounts you have the most mutual followers with and accounts that are most in tune with your brand purpose and ethos.

Byrne Communications: Work out what your aesthetic point of view is and invest in great imagery to set you apart – a strong visual identity is key.

Platform Creative: The challenge is to keep your story evolving. Editors want to write about something new – we recommend focusing on smaller collections with scheduled new releases every 3-4 months – even if that’s a just a limited-edition piece – it keeps your brand looking fresh and topical.

PR Dispatch:  If your imagery is amazing you are so much more likely to be featured. Understand the features. By understanding what the press are looking for in terms of angles or products they feature regularly you are much more likely to send relevant information and therefore get a response.

Speaking from PR Experience – the brands on the other side

With these useful nuggets of PR information in the bank, we chatted to two creative companies who have worked with a PR company on different levels to get some feedback from the client’s perspective.

At the high level, Alex Angel – Benscher from Vurchoo took the step to work with a PR company on a full package when he felt he was unable to do the work.  Despite having had some great results, he has recently stepped back into DIY mode in the PR department for a range of reasons, but one of his strongest pieces of advice was to look carefully at the PR company’s client base and network to make sure it is right for you. He suggested using the Venn diagram approach to ensure that the overlap between both parties’ demographic is significant enough to ensure a successful partnership.

On the opposite spectrum, Siobhan Martin from Shiv Textiles opted for a more measured PR package, subscribing to monthly PR service which for her has proved to be both time saving and a way of taking the anxiety out of creating content. What she has done, which is in tune with several of the top tips, is invested in photography.

Both these companies have explored the PR options and committed to something that worked for them. It comes down to doing the research, understanding weaknesses, and playing to strengths.

And finally – three bullet points from Rosie of PR Dispatch seem like both a useful place to begin your PR journey and a good point to end this conversation on…

1. Firstly, start today. PR will always go to the bottom of the to-do-list, but the sooner you start the sooner you’ll start to get coverage.

2.  Be consistent. It’s very likely that you won’t hear back from pitch emails at first, but by being in their inbox and on their radar, you are massively increasing your chances of being featured.

3.  Be patient. Gaining coverage takes time, but the more you gain the more coverage it leads to.

 

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