Netlink IT and it’s ruggedly handsome and modest owner (that would be me, for those of you already confused) recently had an article about us printed in the Birmingham Mail and the Birmingham Post, the two top local newspapers here in our hometown of Birmingham.
Like most Small Business owners, I’ve always assumed that PR (Public Relations) is something that the “big boys” do – think Coca Cola, Nike, Barclays, etc. That attitude would change though.
I’ve been asked by more than one fellow small business owner recently how we went about getting the afore mentioned coverage, and how much it cost us in pounds and pence to do so, so here’s the story.
The Value of Client Testimonials
Through attendance at a recent networking event I met a copywriter, Mark Beaumont-Thomas, of Lexicon Marketing. I’d already realised the value of Client testimonials and Case Studies after I threw together some very basic testimonials based around work we’d done for clients and then posted them to our web-site some time ago. However, I wanted a more professional looking set of Case Studies based on our more recent work with clients, so I engaged Mark to do this work for us.
During the course of this work, I happened to mention to Mark how Netlink IT had recently made Microsoft Certified Partner status and how Microsoft Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead Vijay Riyait had asked me if he could feature us as an example of a SBSC “one man band” who had grown into a bigger business thanks to our involvement in the Community, during a presentation at the forthcoming Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference we were attending in Houston, TX. Mark suggested that this would be an excellent opportunity for some PR, and wrote a Press Release before introducing me to Derek Weekes of PR Weekes who could make sure the Press Release was placed in the proper channels.
Derek, in turn, introduced me to Paul Vokes, a freelance photographer, who agreed to take some shots of me and the team to add some colour to the Press Release. Paul then proceeded to make Mick, Kelly and myself wear Cowboy Hats (for the Texas theme) and publicly humiliate took photographs of us outside our office as the world pointed and sniggered.
Once the photographs were added to the Press Release, Derek did his thing and pretty soon we were famous… well, not really. We had a small article featured in The Manufacturer but very little else. It felt like PR was indeed something for the big boys only.
Coverage in the Press
But then Derek re-issued the Press Release and I received a couple of telephone calls from friends saying how they saw an article on us in the Birmingham Mail – this was news to me! Sure enough, after tracking down a copy of the previous nights Mail I spotted this in the Business Section.
The interesting thing about the above article was that it was also featured on the Birmingham Mail’s web-site and within the next 12 hours had been re-produced and linked to by any number of other organisations.
Then, later that week, Derek informed me that the Birmingham Post had picked up the article and produced a half-page spread on us including a photograph.
(Apologies for the standard of the copy – the original was in colour so you could see how beautiful we all were in glorious detail).
Once again, the Post Article was reproduced on-line and was picked up by a lot of other web-sites and a knock on effect was that our suddenly shot up the Google rankings – with not a bit of expensive SEO in site!
After the Post article, we received a lot of e-mails and telephone calls from suppliers and partners congratulating us and telling us that although they weren’t aware of our recent growth, they were now! As for directly generating business, we’ve had a couple of enquiries from prospective clients, but nothing has materialised – but I never expected this to be the case. The goal of the Press Release was to raise our profile, and I certainly believe it’s done that.
Now – the bit you’re interested in if you’re a Small Business owner – the costs! The photographer, the Copywriter and the PR Agency cost us less than £400 all in. I’m not sure how much a half-page advertisement in the Birmingham Post, or a quarter-page ad in the Birmingham Mail costs, but I’m guessing it’s more than £400!
So I now know a bit more about PR and how it works. I’m no expert – but I don’t know many people in the small business area who have done much with PR, so we’ve made a start at least!
Moving forwards we’ve put aside a budget for similar regular PR work. There may be a doubt over whether it is money well spent – it’s not directly generated any new clients (yet?) – but my gut feeling is it has raised our profile as a company immensely. The number of unique visitors to this blog has increased by 25% since the articles, the company web-site has more external links to it than before and thus a higher Google ranking than ever, and we’ve already been presented with two opportunities to work more closely with a couple of organisations to our mutual benefit – people want to be associated with others they perceive to be ambitious and successful. If that statement sounds a bit like us blowing our own trumpet, just consider what PR ultimately is – it’s all about drawing attention to yourself.
Is the above just vanity and a bit of an ego stroke for all concerned, or is it truly valuable to the growth of my company? If you’ve any thoughts on the pro’s/con’s of PR – please get in touch or leave a comment below – I’d be interested to hear from you!
I’d politely ask that you please contact my Agent for any personal appearance or autograph requests though… 😉