If you’re a B2C brand launching a product — like a new super-intelligent, exercise bike — that’s also not really going to make a news story, but it might make a ‘roundup feature’ of new products.
Welcome to another installment of our PR Strategy Series, where you can learn directly from top industry experts on how you can leverage media attention to grow your business.
Today we are talking about how you can grow in the PR space by highlighting parts of the conversation I had over at Authority Magazine with Helen Croydon.
Helen is the founder of Thought Leadership PR, a former journalist, and a three-time author. Her business helps c-suite executives, entrepreneurs, academics, authors and other public figures develop media-worthy ideas to become a revered commentator in their industry. She is also the host of The Media Insider Podcast, featuring interviews with editors and journalists on what makes a story.
Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you got started?
I had a 15-year career as an author, journalist, and broadcaster. Within that time I wrote for every major UK newspaper and several magazines, appeared as a commentator on news programs such as Sky News, Five Live, Good Morning Britain, BBC News Channel, and more.
As an author, I wrote three books, one of which was a WHSmith best-seller (that was my first one — a dating memoir but let’s not talk too much about that!). My most recent one is the most wholesome — it’s a memoir of discovering endurance sport and realizing that we can all achieve more than we think. It was long-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2018. My second book was the least juicy — a polemic questioning whether conventional marriage-and-kids really is the elixir of life (as a happy singleton at the time I didn’t reckon it was!).
I set up my PR agency, Thought Leadership PR, in January 2019 because with journalism going into further decline, I figured my efforts were better placed helping others get into the media. I didn’t make the jump from journalist to PR overnight. People kept asking me how they can contact journalists, how they can get a book deal, how they can get on TV etc. So, I started workshops on how to get into the media, then media training, and slowly Thought Leadership PR was born.
As a successful business leader, which character traits do you think were most instrumental in getting you to where you are today?
Drive: Friends and family have always said things like: ‘I wish I had your willpower’ or ‘you’re so driven.’ And I was like, ‘What?!’ Because I’m also a bit of a rebel. I was never a shining star pupil or a star employee. As a writer, I never earned money so that made me see myself as a nomadic creative, compared to my corporate career-type friends.
But now I see it: at university, I chose the most difficult language (Japanese). After university, I decided I wanted to be a journalist and worked my way up from local radio to a top newsroom (ITN). In my 20s, I became intent on being an author and now have 3 books to my name. In my 30s, the obsession became triathlon and I ended up qualifying for team GB in my age group. Yet because I wasn’t a high earner, I never saw myself as successful. It’s only since being in business that I’ve realized that I thrive under autonomy and my natural drive comes out.
Reductive: This may not sound like a strength for some professions! When it comes to deciphering what a story is, you have to be reductive. I am constantly reducing down what my clients do, or know, or have opinions on to top lines that I can suggest to the media, speaking events, podcast producers, or social media posts. This is what journalists do. All day they reduce wreaths of information down to the bare bones of what is interesting. And so that’s where that trait comes from.
Energy: I have a lot of it. which I put down partly down to a healthy diet and my love of endurance sport. And partly down to my family being typical grafters. My mum always had something on the go — charities, committees, side businesses. My family could never understand why they never have time to watch TV like everyone else, and now I hear myself say exactly the same!
What 3 media strategies would you consider being most effective in generating more business for a national brand?
Most PRs or people who pitch to the media start with a story and then find the publications to pitch to. For example, they write a press release or a pitch, and then they scattergun it out. I always say, do it the other way around! Start with the publication, study it, and then find an angle or a way that your story or news would fit.
Say you have a new book out on ‘the next stage of digital transformation in business’ (there seem to be a lot of those!). Don’t just send a generic pitch to every business or tech publication because it’s the right theme. Take three different platforms — digital, print, or even radio — and study them.
Do they run ‘opinion pieces’ from non-journalist contributors? In which case, take one of the arguments in your book and suggest a punchy, opinion piece. Do they do ‘reviews’? In which case offer to send the book. Do they do interviews? In which case, the journalists will be less interested in the press release of the book, but they will be interested in your personal story on say, overcoming a challenge.
One more before we go: If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’d launch something to tackle excess packaging. The amount we use makes me cringe. Items that are sold in a bag, inside a bag, inside a casing. The manufacturers and packagers are mostly to blame, but consumers can be more conscious too. For example, people order items online and throw the packaging away on arrival, only to then buy bubble wrap or envelopes weeks later!
I’ve started shopping at places where I can take my own container. So, my movement would like to make these sorts of shops mainstream.
Thank you for sharing so many insights with us!