Independent PR consultant Jane Lee shares her own perspective on getting results for clients in the technology and retail sectors, why persistence is her middle name, and advice to SMEs doing their own PR.
About the agency
What areas of PR do you specialise in?
I have focused on the technology sector since I started as an independent PR back in 1994. Within that niche I’ve built up strong contacts amongst journalists covering small business (SME), IT security, e-commerce/retail and software development.
I like working with smaller, entrepreneurial companies: they’re often a lot of fun as well as being very focused; they make decisions quickly without yards of red tape and I can work directly with the MD or the CEO.
What is the advantage of using an independent PR like yourself rather than an agency?
There are three main advantages: my seniority as account manager, continuity of contact and better value for money.
With many years of experience in technology PR, I’m probably equivalent to a senior account director level. Those sort of people would not, I imagine, work on a client’s account on a day-to-day basis as I do.
And of course, the continuity of contact means things get done, there are no messages lost in the machine and the client doesn’t have to re-brief a new PR exec at regular intervals.
On the value for money side, as an independent, I provide a full PR service, but I don’t have the big overheads of commercial premises and staff costs, as I’m working from my home office and bringing in other freelance associates and specialists to form a virtual team when required.
How do you ensure your clients get the right coverage in the press?
Firstly, I’ve really got to understand the client’s business, why its offering is different and what the benefits are for the customers. That can mean cutting through tech-speak and a lot of wordiness to produce a description of the business in plain English that I can use with the media.
Secondly, it’s about knowing the right media for the client and building those relationships. Giving the journalist what they want, on time, every time is very important.
What advice would you give to SMEs doing their own PR?
If a small business owner is going to do PR in-house, I would suggest he/she reads my whitepaper, PR for Small Businesses, which Daryl Willcox commissioned me to write.
There are three things that I’d recommend:
1. First of all, as a business owner, you need to know your own customers and prospects: who they are, what they read, what social media they use.
2. Then get to know the right media; the reporters and freelance journalists who cover your areas and target market. Get to know those magazines and websites, and what material they publish. No point in sending a press release if the editor doesn’t cover news.
3. And lastly, be very organised. Build a database of contacts and what communication you have with them. And if you get interest in a pitch, then ensure you deliver.
Tell us about one of your clients you are working with at the moment. How is the campaign going?
A recent campaign was to promote a new book of ecommerce tips and also generate leads via registrations to download the pdf edition. I achieved 39 bits of coverage as book reviews, chapter extracts and competitions. 85% of these have been online and included the e-book link.
What do you offer clients seeking PR results?
Persistence is my middle name. I am very tenacious in pursuing results for my clients when I believe there’s a good story. This can mean a deal of nudging and following up, but always done with subtlety and circumspection so as not to annoy the journalist.
What can you offer to journalists seeking a story on one of your clients?
Honesty, timeliness and reliability. I give journalists straight answers and no flannel. Whether it’s a phone interview or email comment from the client, a case study or product for review I’ll ensure the journalist gets the right input, when required.
How do you build and maintain strong relationships with journalists?
I try to put myself in their shoes and I don’t bother them with irrelevant stories. I also approach them in the way they prefer – I know how galling it is to get a call when you’re in the middle of focusing on something, so usually use an email with a concise pitch.
When journalists are interested I ensure they get what they want in the form they want it, and on time (or even early). Ultimately clients may come and go, but my relationships with the press last far longer.
How did you get into PR?
The truth is I got into PR by accident. I was doing general admin work on a self-employed basis for a software distributor and the MD asked me to take on the PR because the agency he’d hired was both expensive and not achieving much. So I applied common sense, used the three steps I’ve listed above and quickly started getting results. My career in PR grew from there.
How useful do you find social media?
Twitter is particularly important. It is another channel for building relationships with journalists; finding out what they’re doing at work and often at home. And it’s also a useful way to find associates to team up with and to promote clients’ material and achievements.
What is the best bit of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Believe in yourself, don’t get complacent and always give 100%.
[img|jpg|Jane Lee, Dexterity PR]