PR – how to make sure it is Absolutely Fabulous

Even if you didn’t watch the TV series or didn’t see the film this summer, most of us are familiar with the two characters from Absolutely Fabulous – Edina Monsoon and her partner in crime Patsy Stone. Edina is a hapless PR, who spends most of her time swigging champagne, air-kissing and doing very little for her clients. More familiar saying words like ‘sweetie’ than ‘return on investment’, it’s fair to say if Edina was a PR in the real world, she wouldn’t have a job for long.

PR marketingIf you are considering employing a PR advisor or want to make sure you are getting the most out of your PR spend, then here are a few pointers to making sure your PR is Absolutely Fabulous…

How do you want PR to support your commercial objectives?

Think bigger than the PR tactic. Over the years, I have met business owners, entrepreneurs, high profile figures and marketing folk who come out with the line ‘so what can you/your agency do for me?’. In some instances they have given little thought as to which areas of the business need promoting first and there is no sales and marketing plan in place. In the case of high profile individuals or celebrities – they haven’t considered of what their personal brand means to them and how they want this to develop over the next year and beyond. Before you pick up the phone or email a potential PR also ask yourself why now?

Choosing the right PR

Recommendations from business contacts and friends or looking around LinkedIn can go some way to helping you appoint the right PR, but if you are looking to engage a PR for longer than a few months, do make sure you have the right  ‘work chemistry’ and that you are prepared to work in a partnership. Time will need to be invested on both sides, particularly in the preparation phase of the PR campaign. Before appointing a PR, make sure you meet – even if it is a video Skype call, because geography dictates. Trust your gut instinct too – this goes for the PR as well!

Preparation, preparation and preparation

You’ve made the decision you want PR but, let’s say one of the objectives is to get media coverage, then do be realistic and don’t expect lots of column inches to arrive in month 1.  Allow a few weeks for the PR(s) to get up to speed, learn about your business, spend time with you and/or your company to get a good understanding of how you work. It will let them have a chance to dig out and create stories that will be of real interest to the media and other target audiences. During the preparation time, you and your PR will need to agree the right messages for the campaign and ensure these are reflected on your website and other forums such as Facebook and LinkedIn. If you are launching a new product or app, do make have a soft launch before you ‘go large’, so you can iron out any glitches that may arise.

What’s the “so-what” of the story?

Living and breathing your work can be a good thing, but ‘group think’ can seriously distort what is important and interesting outside the office walls. This goes for PR. You may be very proud or excited that you have moved offices, recruited some new staff or you are re-branding your logo, but be guided by your PR about what’s going to cut if for the media or other target audiences. The acid test to apply for any PR initiative is ‘what’s the so what?’ of the story – why should the journalist, your prospects and other targets care 

Don’t fear the media – if necessary get some training

I’m fortunate to have met some very inspirational, talented and successful business owners and senior managers in all different industries. Tough, resilient – you’d have thought meeting the press would be a walk in the park, rather than a meeting with the enemy. One particular CEO – who was running a global consulting business at the time and had fought in wars – was somewhat nervous at the thought of a meeting arranged with the Financial Times. However, we made sure we were clear on the angles we wanted to get across, I stressed the point that “journalists need you as much you need them” and then we had a dress rehearsal. Remember there is no need to fear – in 99% of situations the journalist meeting has been arranged because you have a good story to tell, some great insights to share – you are the expert with a view they want to hear. Your PR will be able to advise as to whether some formal media training (normally half day or one day workshops run by ex-print or broadcast journalists) should take place.

Trust your PR

If you or your firm has one or even a few skeletons or you suspect there could be one emerging in the cupboard, tell your PR as soon as possible. Forewarned is forearmed and if the PR has the heads-up, then the right processes can be put in place to handle the crisis and manage you/your firm’s reputation in the right way.

Capitalise on your successes

Getting a profile in a national newspaper or a double page spread in a top tier trade publication may tick the box on the PR trail, but don’t leave the coverage to be yesterday’s fish and chip paper. Make sure you and the rest of your employees are getting the word out – for example you could post the coverage link on appropriate social media forums such as LinkedIn and Facebook. If you know a piece is going to appear which will resonate with potential clients and customers, consider setting up an email campaign set up so you are ready to press go as soon as the piece appears. On occasions, press coverage will mean  you have a flurry of calls from potential customers or clients – do make sure those answering calls are briefed ahead of the coverage appearing, so they can log and transfer the calls to the right people. Make sure you are seizing every opportunity to get return on investment.

Sam Pepper has been running her own boutique PR business since 2000.

To contact Sam with any PR queries, please email her on