Corporate Communications

Can PR put your business in the shop window?

It is the age old question asked by CEOs and Managing Directors when considering a marketing budget – can PR really help me reach my goal to sell my business?

And the answer, put simply, is yes – PR can put you in the shop window. But it can’t be done overnight.

As Lloyd Vassell, journalist at leading news wire service for the global investment community, Mergermarket, told us:

“A positive media representation is so important in the eyes of investors. Not only does it enable businesses to attract a wider audience but it helps them stand out apart from competitors.

If a company has had an active media presence and is visible in credible news outlets such as Mergermarket- investors are more likely to trust their potential investee- as they will know that journalists, who are renowned for digging up dirt- will have checked the facts and the company would have been vetted. Strategically placed PR stories also enable investors to keep in the loop of where a company stands and keep their eyes on potential opportunities.”

As an agency that has worked with many businesses in raising their profile, with the end goal to increase capital growth to sell part of or whole of a business, we’re in a good position to outline how this can be done. But it’s important the context is understood to allow it to happen.

A good reputation exceeds ROI 

Return on investment is the usual burning focus when it comes to strategically allocating areas of a budget and unfortunately unlike sales targets – reputation cannot be as easily categorised penny for penny.

Credibility is priceless. Familiarity with a brand allows businesses and consumers to respect and trust the service or product which effectively helps build a loyal customer base- something very attractive in the eyes of investors.

Last year, leading business magazine Management Today reported a list of the companies with the best reputation in the UK and Lego, Kellogg’s and Rolls Royce came in the top three. All of these brands have worked long and hard to refine their identities and build a customer base that stays with them for life.

Case Study: Rolls Royce

Who: Rolls Royce are renowned for having the best apprenticeship schemes in the UK industry and, of course, the best luxury cars – two areas the brand has worked hard to refine and position its expertise in over its years in existence.

What can we learn?: The communications team or agency supporting Rolls Royce will have achieved this by strategically placing news stories and features in the press to deliver these key messages. Whether it’s done locally to the regional news outlets close to Rolls Royce sites or in the trade or mainstream press, after seeing a few stories about the company’s expertise, consumers and businesses will start to associate such attributes with the brand, contributing to a good reputation.

Championing your field can benefit your business, as well as the greater good

One tactic is to build familiarity in the media by assigning a key spokesperson for your company. A collective decision should be made as to who that might be.

What do you need to consider?

  • It doesn’t always have to be the CEO: But that person should be a consistent media representative and, where possible, be present in meetings with investors, to breed familiarity.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of media training: Even those who are comfortable in front of cameras and microphones can benefit from a reflective media training session.
  • They should be prepared to comment on issues around their business and in the wider industry: This is a good vehicle for showing your expertise and, in turn, shining a light on your company. Five minute slots to talk about your own company are rare – even FTSE100 companies only find they have the opportunity to do this when posting results or trying to counter negative stories. Therefore you need to be prepared to engage with media on certain terms.

When news stories arise surrounding the industry your business is in, your PR team should be ready to jump on them reactively, to offer your insight into such topics and issues. This will open your business up to a wider audience and will add to your credibility as a thought leader and pioneer in your field – both very beneficial when it comes to selling your business.

Case Study: Nick Jenkins, Founder of online greeting card retailer Moonpig.

What happened? Before Jenkins sold the business to Photobox in 2011, he could be seen in a succession of stories in the media ranging from profile interviews in the national newspapers, to advice and opinion pieces in the business and HR press. Of course, Jenkins’ PR team would have worked strategically to secure coverage around profits and other positive stories in order to raise awareness amongst potential investors

Result? This media plan obviously worked well, with Jenkins reportedly walking away with a cool £45m after selling the business. As you may have seen, he now uses his expertise to coach others and sustain his media profile as one of the latest Dragons to enter the den.

Reputation can be measured in SEO

When you type a company name in Google and negative news stories appear, it will give anyone a bad perception of your business, let alone investors. Whilst you can’t control what Google puts on that first page, you can attempt to increase your businesses’ positive SEO output.

For example, a consistent and targeted media campaign which results in positive online coverage will help your business achieve a positive sentiment online and effectively, back date the negative stories.

This is where PR penetrates where advertising can’t, as not only are ads on Google quite frequently subconsciously dismissed by the consumer eye- no many how many online adverts you invest in, they won’t get rid of those negative stories on the first page of Google.

Social Media is a positive PR output

Over the past twenty years, we’ve all witnessed the sheer power of social media in spreading a message far and wide. For businesses, as many are aware, social media is a crucial tool to leverage key messages from your company. As a business leader, make sure you are following the right people and regularly updating your followers on announcements within your business and positive news stories. As well as keeping investors updated on your business, social media will contribute to a positive sentiment online and SEO. Upon searching your name or business, investors will gather a collective view on who you are and what you do which can make or break your reputation, so be aware of that when tweeting and posting on Twitter, LinkedIn etc.

Impressing the press is crucial but tricky game

Strategically placing stories prior to an investment round is crucial, but to do this relationships need to be formed with key journalists. If you build a good relationship with such journalists, the rapport you build with them will pay off when you want to tactically place investment stories. With good intention, they will write the stories in a transparent and positive light. However, journalists can be sceptical and if you make it too obvious that you are trying to get them on side- they may back off. Be subtle, respectful and honest and it should pay off.

To conclude, PR is a powerful catalyst in reaching an end goal of selling part of or whole of a business but its important to understand that it is a slow and steady burn and a good reputation cannot be achieved immediately. Whilst it may be a process which requires patience, it is can be rewarding.

Bill Gates famously said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR”.  Whilst Gates will probably never experience such a downturn in fortunes, his words certainly have meaning.

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