MF: So in the next part of the book, you talk about one-liners and I’ve been really specific in my one liner because when I was creating it and I was creating the brand (YBKBS), there’s a story behind my brand but then people can’t quite work out what I did which was a great conversation piece. They never quite worked out what I did. So I had to work really quite hard on it to get people to understand what it was that I did.
So how do you actually create a one liner, so that it grabs people’s attention?
LW: With great difficulty! The one-liners are the hardest thing.
MF: That’s very honest of you. I appreciate that!
LW: Really difficult. And it’s… as an American said to me recently….“I see you wrote in your book…like if someone can’t tell you what it is they do in one sentence…you think that they’re boring?”
Especially British people don’t actually have a lot of confidence and saying what it is that they do and we feel a need to fill the space by saying everything that we do. Actually, if you just say your name and what it is you do on a very basic level, in a way that people are going to understand, it leaves space for us…to be more intrigued.
So obviously you gave me a delightful intro earlier all the things that I do, but if I just drilled it down to “I run a PR graphic design and branding agency”… you go…“Oh, yeah. I know what she does”, and then you might go, “So what specifically? What so you’re like a traditional PR agency of retained clients?”
You might then have a conversation about it. But if I start to say all of the things that you used in the intro to someone in a general conversation, or is a pitch to media, they’re going to get lost or bored pretty quickly. They just literally need to know what you’re an expert in.
If you’re if you’re pitching yourself as an article writer, one just needs to know you’re an expert. They don’t need to know your life story. And I think there’s that there really is a tendency for people to really waffle on.
MF: And yet how you do the one liner?
LW: It’s not easy. It’s not easy. I think basically write several different versions and you have to red pen yourself…you write down everything and then you literally you just go with the most simplistic form and leave space for that intrigue. And I always try and ‘back pocket’ a few fun facts as well if you can… just to make you sound a bit different.
MF: Again, that’s why pretty much where I came up with my brand ‘The Best Kept Business Secret’. There’s a story behind that… in the fact that the first two clients that I had…and I was doing really well with… I asked for recommendations and they said, “No!”. And I went, “What?”. And they went, “No!, why would we give our best kept business secret to anybody else?” Aha! So that’s where that’s where it came from!
But when I was saying that to people, it was a case of, “Well, actually no… what do you do?” And if I just say the words ‘business coach’ everybody goes “(Groaning) Yeah….”, and so with his way they say, “oh-oh!”…and they get the cross out and all that stuff, start dousing me with holy water…
LW: Business Coaching has got such a PR problem. PR has got a PR problem as well. But then I think I was having this conversation the other day with another entrepreneur for that…I think anybody within their own industries think that their own industry has a PR problem and actually to the wider world they probably don’t, but I’d agree that business coaching does have a little bit of a PR problem.
MF: I’ll leave it there before another 30 others will like hit me over the head with their with their franchise books and so moving on… Right and so boilerplates! Boiler plate … Right, now…I love that phrase, because it made me immediately think of my ex-mother-in-law, so tell us what boilerplate is, because I absolutely love the phrase and then when I read about it, I had an “AHA! That that is a winner!” I love it! Tell us about a boilerplate.
LW: Essentially in a simplistic way it acts as your business bio. It’s the bit of copy about your business that never changes. So when you are pitching your business out there or you’re asking to be a guest on a podcast or you’re putting an award entry together, or you’re going to speak in an event, we’re going to ask you for a bit of info about your business.
So let’s say, with your business you’ve got four press releases that go out a year. One is the launch of the platform, next is a senior hire that you just taken from Apple, think about your different releases that you’re doing…that bit at the bottom…the boiler plate, is never going to change. So yeah, that’s it.
MF: Basically that’s something I’ve been talking about many, many, many years. Actually when people are talking about themselves just generally in business there’s a little trick that I try and employ…it’s when people write these things they make an awful lot of assumptions. So I always say, you’ve got to write down five words that somebody would want to say…that you would think people would say about you or your business when you’ve passed on to another world.
Those five words should really be in your boiler plate at some point.
However, then go and ask your customers what five words they would use and the gap between your perception of what you think you are and their perception of what you are…if they’re really, really close well done you, but I’m probably looking around about 70% of the time…the gap is quite huge. So when people are saying ‘I’m friendly’ and ‘approachable’… and your customers say “Actually we barely hear from you and you know, you’re a bit crappy at communication.”, that’s very much a branding exercise as well…
LW: So, I’m actually working on the second version of that book with Hadrian my partner because he’s basically dyslexic. Writing is not his thing, writing in English is generally not his bag. (He’s French). So I’m essentially writing it in my tone of voice, but it’s all of his knowledge. We’ve been going through the same sort of version of PR, but with branding and that’s a valuable exercise in getting your audience with your friends, your family, to tell you… again for Brits it’s really excruciating exercise, but it’s so valuable. It is also in line with when I always ask somebody “What’s your dream piece of press coverage?”
And it really gives me an idea. Are they aiming high enough? Or are they aiming too low or are they spot on? And it’s the same when you’re talking about words to describe themselves as some people really don’t recognise just how brilliant they are, right?
MF: Okay. Yeah. I mean, it’s very British trait, isn’t it? I suppose that we don’t really like to shout about ourselves. And actually we just go…“Yeah. Just kind of what I do…” So how important are images? We know about Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram and all that business, but how important are images when it comes to PR? In a world inundated with photos, what kind of photos should you be looking for as a small business to use in your PR?
LW: It’s funny. I always encourage all small business owners to get photos of themselves and nothing else because you are investing in yourself. Once you spend that money, you’ll actually be forced to use them. Also the amount of times that I’ve had to rig up like entrepreneurs interviews and the only headshot they’ve got is of them on the toilet, or a dual one holiday with the sunglasses and a glass of wine.
When I see that on LinkedIn now, I’m saying, “You have to know you all have smartphones?”. Literally put it on time and hold it away from yourself on your white office walls. Not that I haven’t seen you in they’ve been working from home for the whole summer…I’m going to get riled about it…also the landscape head shot is for the win! If you think about any business page…to any national newspaper, right? We’d open it. It is flat like landscape. So if you have a landscape image and literally I’ve used this trick so many times, but every time I’ve submitted landscape images of my clients and myself it’s dominated the article because it’s fitting what that page needs. Picture editors need those landscape shots and if you’re thinking about articles online, if it’s a feature and they’re using guest experts, for example, and you’re scrolling online, they’re not going to break up copy with a big portrait shot. They’ve got a landscape of somebody and it sits right in the middle of the text beautifully. Literally, I feel like I’m going on about this hack all the time… every time I say it people like, “Well that’s amazing…”, no matter how little she said it so many times, “So why are you not doing this?” It’s just such a simple win.
That and having high res(olution) shots ready? And actually I was a failure in this yesterday. So technically I’m not saying I’m not doing client work, while I’m just working on my DIY stuff. But obviously I have clients because I gotta pay my bills, but also I like to flex that publicity muscle so I can’t be telling you lot how to do PR and not always be doing it.
I had an old client I’m doing some work with. He’s in the ‘Death Tech’ business and I literally, as it’s half term, checked my emails quickly. “Have you got any high res images of the coffins you can send me immediately?” That’s a sentence. I wasn’t expecting…”I don’t… I don’t believe…” I was WhatsApp’ing him, “Hi!, please send me the coffin, please send me the coffin.”
It’s funny having this random chat, “Did you get my message about the high res of the coffins?”, as I’m walking around the playground and other parents thinking, “Oh…you sound like a nutter!”, and in fact that sort of adrenaline was “…if we get the picture in, it will probably be guaranteed to get into the magazine articles.” So we need to hurry up and do it…and I was like, “This is literally PR 101 Lucy, that when you work with anybody, the first thing you do is gets the high res images of them and have one on file prepared!” It’s going to be my Instagram post today, where I talk about it because I tell everybody to do it all the time. And then didn’t do it for myself!
But you know? That’s what we all do, is us pro’s, tell everybody else how to do it, because we know how the best way is to do it, and then have to still sort our own websites or whatever it is. Yeah. So yeah, image is super important and if you can’t afford to do it…but I don’t encourage people to work for free, but when we started out and Hadrian joined the business, I was prego and I was really trying to rake money in and what we did was a skills swap with somebody. So we did some PR and he did a bit of branding and design for us, to get some new photos together. So see if there are ways that you can trade what you do to get headshots if you’re if you really can’t afford to do it.
MF: So let’s talk about the things that have kind of shifted in the current climate regarding PR. Before we came on air, obviously we were talking a lot about hospitality. The pub and bar industry which, if people have been following me they will know that I think that certainly here in the UK, we have missed a freaking trick. A lot of pubs and bars and restaurants have missed a massive trick, but it is what it is…instead of just reopening they should have reset and then reopened and come up with something different.
But what kind of things should we really be talking about now, going through the second wave, coming out potentially in the new year?
LW: It’s a really difficult one because I’m not…I am not a business coach and I’m not an expert in how businesses should pivot in the pandemic, but I definitely think that that the venues that I’ve seen who’ve done well publicity wise, have pivoted, have looked at doing alternative services, have been doing things with their community, have been maybe partnering up locally to do home deliveries, or they’ve been packaging up with other wholesalers to be getting more than just a pint delivered to your house. It’s like a DIY cocktail kit for it.
“So we’re going to give you the stuff and you can make your own pizzas from our in-house cook, Chef, team…”, or whatever it is. I’ve a lot of pubs locally here off the back of them and I don’t want to get into this massive one, but offer back rooms to do the curries for the school vouchers. A lot of our local pubs, here have been doing free lunches for the families that can’t afford to eat. Where I live in Hackney there’s a particularly high number of families who need those vouchers.
So there’s a lot that’s been lot of community work there. They’ve been getting pr with in that way and don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying do the community work to get press coverage. What I am saying is in the current climate, we need stories of positivity and we need stories of goodwill. So if your business is doing things in that space, you should be shouting about it because we all need to be uplifted. Actually off the back of the first wave, and I’m seeing it already for the second wave, is a trend and a need for positive news and there’s positive news outlets now springing up all over the place.
But also where a lot of newspapers are now shifting into more digital content and online they are looking for people who are doing good or good in the community to showcase, because as people, we know…I don’t know about you…I felt like at the beginning of the pandemic I was watching Bojo on TV every day and now I see my BBC breaking news alert, and I think “I’ll just wait to read whatever the breaking news alert is later.”, because you’re just going to tell me what it is later anyway.
We’re all getting a bit disillusioned from it, we all need lightheartedness. So I think in terms of what small businesses are doing, again, like we mentioned it earlier, they are all in an agile place to be quite reactive and to change what it is they’re doing and to be shouting about that and I think the real power is when we collaborate, as a small business community together, it’s not just shouting about when you’re winning…it’s also shouting about when you’re struggling.
So if you need to do a crowd funder get your local regional paper involved. If you need to be pivoting your services and you need other businesses to collaborate to be using your space on the times that you can’t open, or know whatever it is that you can do, shout…shout out and say what it is that you need!
I think when the biggest lessons I’ve learned from working in the small business community is that when we shout out they I need help with ‘X’, they will rally round. We just need to be told. Right, I was in a bit of a predicament last summer when my second child was born and a lot of people would say to me, “Tell me what you need…”, and I couldn’t. Because I couldn’t, people couldn’t help, but other people would say, “I think you need food. So I’m going to send you some food.” “I think you need this. So I’m going to send you drinks.” “I think you might need someone to clean your house…”, and one of her mates came around and cleaned my house. “I think your other son needs a play date…”
When you’re in the midst of panicking about your business, you can’t always say to people what it is you need help with but if you can going back to that sort of Crisis PR chat that we had at the start, taking that step aside and saying what is it you need…what do you need help with and who in the community can help you with that?
Because when we all pull together we can do some amazing things.
MF: The one thing that is going to become more prevalent, especially when it comes to PR I think will be trust. It’s a very under rated when it comes into business because as business owners, we don’t tend to talk about it an awful lot. But our customers and our clients and consumers will. They trust you, then they going to buy from you and I actually think that trust, coming up into the next six to 12 months is going to be a huge thing. Great products great services, whatever, but this is how safe we are. What would you agree?
LW: Yeah one hundred percent. And I think there’s actually there’s a an internal policy at mailchimp, and then he says “Listen hard, change fast, learn constantly.”, and it I actually think that applies really well to crisis PR and pandemic. Even when you think about like the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement earlier on this year, everybody suddenly saw people posting black squares and posted black squares, right?
And then they suddenly realise they were clogging up the ‘Black Lives Matter’ feed using the hashtag and so they suddenly had done it wrong. It’s like, you know what? We all have good intentions. And as small business owners, we all have brilliant intensions within the pandemic to be supporting our customers to be supporting our audiences. So I think sometimes it is just sitting back and listening hard, speaking to them about what it is.
They need. What do they want? How can we help them? And that kinda old school clip boarding is sort of forgotten about, but actually really taking that time out to speak to your audience, but what do they need? How do they want to be spoken to? What is their biggest challenge?
I use a tool called pentameter quite a lot which is a word cloud and I asked people to tell me what it is that stops them from hyping themselves. I’ve now got this word map of all the words they use and it’s not necessarily what I think is that stops people, you know So we all have a thing, we have all worked in our own spaces for such a long time, that we don’t necessarily know what it is that stopping our audience. Again back to tailoring your communications to customers. Because you might think actually it’s ‘X’ and it could be ‘Y’ , so yeah, I 100% agree. I think community, honesty and transparency is really going to come through. I think businesses, even bigger businesses we can see, are those that have more of a ethical and sustainable message behind them, go on to perform better and I hope that that is just going to trickle down more into small business space. We can really learn.
Actually, I think I don’t know if you did this…when I started out, I thought that if I had a big website and said “I’m disruptive and innovative and I….”
MF: Yeah, we’ve all done that.
LW: My ‘global brand’… just say who you are…saying much more relatable stuff and I tell you what, I get way more new business leads now, and I’m working part-time with two kids only three days a week. Like it’s really weird really weird, because I’d say in the last 20 months I’ve been really pushing my profile and putting myself as the face of the business and that has changed it. Completely changed it. I think everybody else out there putting themselves to in themselves out there it’s going to really help with that and a customers trust. Paramount. It’s Paramount.
MF: Lucy, I absolutely love this. Can we have you back on again?
LW: I’d love to! Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll make it. All right, and then it would probably would have all changed again and I can tell you how I’m getting on with a new book as well. I could even bring the French co-founder.
MF: Absolutely! Bring The French co-founder that be cool. Lucy Werner, thank you so much and all the links to you and the business are below…