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The value of visibility

In times like these, getting your name recognised is more important than ever before. Deborah Gray, managing director of Deborah Gray PR, explores the value of visibility for composters and organics professionals.

If there is one thing that successful, long-established businesses have in common, it is their ability to ride through recessions and come out winning. Management Today recently identified the top five UK companies most likely to win through this particular downturn: Diageo, Johnson Matthey, Unilever, BSkyB and Tesco.

These five firms have a number of elements in common. They view recessions as opportunities. They have a strong, strategic focus on marketing and communications, in particular PR. And they proactively adapt their marketing and communications strategy to the challenges and opportunities in the changing marketplace.

Management Science Professor Gary Lilien conducted a scientific study on proactive marketing during recessions. He found that, "Companies that have been looking at marketing as an investment, and not an expense, and have been running their business through customer knowledge are the ones that are going to come out of this [recession] really, really well."

And what is true of big businesses is also true for smaller businesses. In fact, when it comes to proactivity, smaller businesses win out over big businesses every time. SMEs can react to opportunities and proactively target future opportunities far faster than corporate behemoths, where decision-making can take months of meetings and literally thousands of PowerPoint slides.

John Abraham once observed that "Everyone is in sales. Whatever area you work in, you do have clients and you do need to sell." An effective marketing strategy, with strong PR, is essential to driving sales: more than ever in today’s challenging climate, where margins are under constant pressure.

Interestingly, most smaller organisations will find that a PR-led strategy delivers a far higher return on investment than an advertising-led strategy. And as a rule of thumb, advertisements need to run at least six times before they get noticed.

So....

Let's put thoughts of Edina, Patsy, Max Clifford, Sophie and the Sheikh to one side. I would like to explain precisely how PR can help composting and organics professionals drive sales. At its very simplest, PR helps tell your story and get your business, your services and your products out there: into trade magazines, local newspapers, on the web and even on radio and TV.

Good press is an absolutely critical tool for any business that wants to grow, particularly on the supply side. And probably the easiest way to ensure your target audiences know about your new product is to ensure they read an article about its benefits.

Yes, yes, I hear you cry. But why hire a professional to do that?

The short answer is, you don't have to. You can write your own press release, send it out to a list of magazines, then sit back and wait until it gets published, and the business enquiries come flooding in.

But sadly – and as anyone who has ever spoken to a journalist only to find themselves misquoted, quoted in a different story from the one they had anticipated, or simply not quoted at all – the media are not that simple.

Trade journalists typically receive between 200 and 300 press releases per week, while national newspapers receive hundreds more: of these, a staggering 95% goes straight in the bin. Only the magic 5% will go on to generate immediate stories, become part of a larger story, or be put to one side and form ideas for future articles.

There is an art to successfully securing a place among that 5%, and that lies in identifying an interesting and unusual story, and shaping it so that it supports your brand and business objectives, too. Then you need to package it in such a way as to attract a journalist’s attention, and ensure it reaches the people and publications who might be interested.

As with any sales communication, addressing your missive to the right person - not just 'the editor', not just any named journalist, but someone you know will be interested in the story you have to offer – gives you a much better chance of being picked up.

And, yes, relationships are key. Picking up the phone and selling your project works infinitely better when you know the people you are selling it to, and have a track record of providing them with good quality leads.

Yet PR can do much more than this. We have created helplines for local residents to manage odour complaints, built stands at trade fairs and delivered literature to match, organised events for stakeholders, local businesses, local schools and local farmers, created outstanding online presences, supported our clients through radio and TV appearances, and lobbied at both the national and local government level.

And while it may take some while before composters and organics businesses reach the size of Diageo, BSkyB and Tesco, there has never been a better time than now to learn from their strategies and invest in the future.

To contact Deborah Gray, visit www.deborahgraypr.com or call 020 8868 0694.

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