Public relations - I would like, with your consent, to muse around this much-talked-about, almost sacred topic. It is something that no one can pin down, yet could cost a small fortune – or cost a little - depending on your take on it.
“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” - Oscar Wilde
I was once taught that the public’s perception of your business was crucial and had to be maintained at all costs.
‘Perception is reality’, whatever the customer thinks of your business, was to them true, and I don’t think we could argue that, whether we think they are right or not.
So how do we communicate to our customers, who we are, what we are and where we come from? To me, that is the very essence of PR. Everything else is trying to change or maintain a person’s perception of your business.
Sam McPheat, a PR guru said: “PR helps your public understand what you stand for, what your visions are. To them, it will feel like they are part of your success and that they are involved in your journey.”
To me, that comment is pure gold – the customers buy into your company - and yet you’ve sold them nothing. This is why, when times are tough, people instinctively return to buying known brands, simply because they trust them. People only buy from people whom they like and trust, unless it’s that cheap they don’t care.
A very successful method of PR is mini movies – it doesn’t have to be big budget – but it does help. Here is a viral mini movie from P&G, for the 2012 Olympics
Please take a look. In my opinion for what it’s worth, this is a masterpiece of public relations. Timed to perfection, it pulls all the right emotional heart strings - all sporting heroes have had hardworking mums behind them - then finishes very quickly with the products that mums use... amazing.
‘Dumb ways to Die’ was created for the Melbourne Metro Rail Network. It had 20 million views in a two-week period
However, P&G has a marketing budget that would keep a small country afloat, so what can we, the normal people, do to punch above our weight in this world of powerful advertising.
Given the above, the use of media can actually be free: just ask Michael O’Leary from Ryanair. He has a small team of youngsters who dream up even wackier ideas day after day, just to keep his name in the press - from charging to use the bathroom on his planes, to fat people being charged twice, and taking the seats out so he can pack more people onto the plane. Every one of them is designed so they can go straight to press, and while everybody is talking about how crazy, sad, unethical it all is, they are talking about Ryanair, the cheap airline.
Stunts: making the biggest, the zaniest or the smallest is always good PR. Go for authentication, get it into the Guinness Book of Records and it will go global.
We were asked to break the world record last year on the ‘World’s Biggest Hot Cross Bun’ on behalf of the RSPB http://www.rspb.org.uk/ and we would share any kudos in the press with them. As it happens, my good friend Colin Lomax actually referred my name to the charity for us to help them - thank you Colin. With a bit of thought and a couple of practice runs, and invigilators at the ready, we soon completed our task.
Within hours of hitting the wires, the story went national - in 20 newspapers from national to local papers with 15 radio programmes wanting a live chat on air. Within a week I got a call from The Daily Chew, a daily kitchen TV programme from New York, wanting to know what the story was – so off to the States I went (with Susan of course) to the TV studios in Manhattan, courtesy of, The Daily Chew and it was so awesome - as the Americans say!
In early March this year we received a phone call from the Alan Titchmarsh Show, wanting us on set to go through the whole story once again on air – so then it becomes a game of how many times you can mention the word Greenhalgh’s and get away with it. All that exposure for making a big bun!
Women’s groups – educational and interest groups, schools, social events - are always on the lookout for speakers (free entertainers), so if you can tell a good tale, or spin a good yarn, as they say in these parts, and throw in a few funnies along the way for good measure, why not give it a try? Where else are you going to get 40 (plus) people, usually ladies - who are the buyers, let’s face it - in one place where you can sell them all the benefits of using your business instead of the major retailers.
We have a team of four, which includes me, who go out early evenings twice a month and deliver a PowerPoint presentation, with all the stories of my dad in days of old, and so on. They just love it – but every other word is of course Greenhalgh’s, Greenhalgh’s, Greenhalgh’s.
Now you understand the power of PR.