The power of good PR

When PR works, it can work wonders.

When PR works, it can work wonders.

When PR works, it can work wonders.

This spring Simon George, director at driving experiences company 6th Gear, offered 12 journalists free drives in Lamborghinis and Ferraris. The resulting coverage brought in sales of £10,000, and the icing on the cake was that some of the journalists paid to do it again.

‘I wasn’t initially looking to drive sales, just get our name out there,’ says George. ‘As it happened, people read about it in magazines and thought, that would be a great Christmas present for Dad.’

Of course, PR doesn’t always deliver great results, and with a few thousand PR firms in the UK the quality of their offerings varies. Sharon Cain, former Sky journalist and founder of Quest PR, says the industry has fought hard to combat an ‘Ab Fab, fluffy image’ since it achieved chartered status in 2005.

‘There’s been criticism of PR companies for talking all the time about how much time they’re spending and what they do, when all the client’s interested in is what they’re delivering,’ she explains.

That’s why some PR firms have chosen to ‘guarantee’ their clients coverage in targeted media. Though this sounds a little sinister (to a journalist anyway) Cain says it works because the PR’s experience enables them to form a realistic idea of how easy it will be to interest particular journalists in a company. Of course, no PR can guarantee the coverage will have its intended effect.

Doing it yourself

Clive Wilson, MD of leadership change consultancy Primeast, needs no convincing of PR’s value. He says Primeast did its own PR for the first 20 years of its life before hiring a firm last year. ‘I wouldn’t say [hiring a firm] has accelerated our progress, but it’s freed up the directors’ time,’ he says, adding that a contract worth £10,000 – equivalent to the company’s annual PR spend – is currently under discussion as a direct result of an article in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

PR doesn’t have to be expensive. Cain says a do-it-yourself approach focused on networking in the right places, building up relationships with journalists and seeking out awards can get results.

Wilson concurs. ‘PR doesn’t open doors – it just oils the hinges and makes them easier to open,’ he argues. ‘When you end up in front of a potential client, you’re a known quantity and you have credibility.’

Marc Barber

Raven Connelly

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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