How did I get here?

When I was growing up, I didn’t dream having a career in PR, if I am honest, I didn’t even know such a thing existed other than in the world of Absolutely Fabulous. When I was small, I had several dreams of what I would be which included:

Becoming a nun (I was about 8) – not because I was particularly religious but because I had a kid crush on Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music. I don’t think wanting to marry a handsome man is reason to become a nun.

A heart and a lung surgeon (I was 11) – turns out I was ok at science (not great but ok) and biology was my best science but given I couldn’t really deal with any of the dissection stuff I doubt I would have been a success.

A lawyer – Not sure what prompted this desire.

I am sure if I spoke to my mum, she would have a full list of careers I had dreamt of. In the end I decided that I wanted to be a journalist and between the ages of 16 and 18 did quite a bit of work experience on local newspapers before heading to university to study a journalism degree.

I loved journalism until the point that I graduated and got a job as a journalist (well editorial assistant) at which point I realised that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the intrusiveness, the fact you were expected to knock on people’s doors at bad times in their lives and I didn’t enjoy the newsroom atmosphere (shouty with a lot of testosterone). After only a year I had a rethink and decided I still wanted to write, and I wanted to speak to people and hear their stories and that led me to the world of PR.

20 years later and I still love it. I love hearing what makes people tick, how they got to where they are, why they need help and helping them share that story. Whether it is working with a charity, getting a small business seen, helping people promote the work they are doing I enjoy it. I still get the same buzz when an event goes well, or I see a client in print or hear them on the radio as I did when I started out. In fact I maybe feel it even more now since I started working for myself and have my own clients, because I really enjoy working with all the businesses, I do PR for.

What do you love about your work?

PR Tips: 1 People don’t buy your product. They buy your story.

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I have been thinking about the most common things that come up when people first speak to me about working with them on a PR campaign.  With that in mind I thought that I would create some short blogs outlining my top PR tips.

When people  get in touch they usually want me to spread the word about their product or service, which is great as that is what I am here to do but quite often  unless the product or service is totally unique it will be hard to get coverage.

All is not lost though, there is always another angle and this is where your story comes into play.  Most people have a story but very often, as it is just part of their life they don’t realise that the story would be of interest to others.

This is why when I first start working with a client I sit down with them and have an in-depth chat not just about their business but their background and how they got to where they are now.

Have a think.  What’s your story?

 

 

 

Working from home & self-employment – My top tips

When I tell people that I work for myself from home lots of them say they wouldn’t have the motivation (believe me when you know you won’t get paid unless the clients work is done, you have motivation). Other people assume that I sit around in PJ’s all day watching Jeremy Kyle and not actually working, as great as that sounds I don’t think anybody would pay me for that
Like any work, of course there are days when my motivation is greater than others and I power through my to do list like a machine. Other days I am sat at my desk and at the end of the day I still feel I have achieved very little. To help me on my way I have certain things I do.
1. Exercise
This won’t be for everybody but I start each day with a gym session, not only does it keep me fit but it also clears my head and wakes me up before my working day starts, it also gives me a chance to see people (working from home means seeing other people is not always a daily occurrence). I would suggest everybody tries to fit a bit of exercise into their day whether it’s the gym, a run, doing some stretches when you get up or getting out for a walk when you take a break. It really clears your head.

2. Get dressed for work
I don’t sit at my desk in a suit but I don’t work in my pyjamas. I feel that by getting dressed, doing my hair and make-up I get into a work frame of mind. Also I’m not sure how keen my husband would be on returning home each day to me in PJ’s with my crazy bed hair.

3. Try and keep normal working hours
I generally try and keep to normal working hours this ensures that work time and social time are kept separate and obviously most of my clients work normal hours so I need to be available for them.

4. Take a break
I always take a lunch break, something I rarely did as an office based employee. Nowadays lunch might be at 3pm but I still take some time out to eat, read the paper or just chill. I have quickly realised that not taking a break doesn’t add to my productivity or creativity in fact the opposite happens.

5. Don’t over promise
When you’re self-employed work can be feast or famine. Sometimes you are overwhelmed by how busy you are and other times you may panic you’ll never get work again, during these famine times don’t over promise. You may need the work/new client/customer but make sure you only promise what you can deliver as otherwise they won’t be using your services for long.

6. Network
Even in your busy times try and make time for networking. You may have as much work as you can cope with but there will always come a time where client relationships end and you’ll need to replace that work. If you’ve already built relationships with those in your networking groups there is a chance that you may have already met your next client but, people buy from people and relationships and trust take time to build so it is no good starting networking when you have no work and expecting after your first meeting that you are going to leave with loads of work. It takes time. The other good thing about networking aside from the business benefits is the chance to get out, meet new people and speak to them face to face (working from home means a lot of phone calls and emails)

7. Market yourself
When you’re busy it can be easy to focus solely on your work and forget about your business. Try and set aside some time at least once a week (I do this daily) to market yourself and your business whether this is writing your blog, updating your social media, contacting prospects, creating newsletters, it’s really important to keep engaging with people and letting them know you’re there. You never know where the next bit of work might come from.

8. Go the extra mile
Your client has asked you to do x,y,z and you’ve agreed. Don’t let your work end there, if you come up with an idea or see or hear something that you think could be useful to them, let them know. Your clients probably don’t see you that often but want to know that you do consider them and it’s not a case of out of sight out of mind. Sometimes the client may not like your idea but at least they know you’re always looking for ways to help them, which will make them more confident in using a self-employed homeworker.

9. Get organised
I have a hand written to do list which I put together at the end of every Friday. This means I can relax and enjoy my weekends as I have already planned what I have to do the following week so don’t need to think about it, it also means that come Monday morning I can just crack straight on with work as I have already done my planning. My to do list always ends up getting added to on a daily basis but at least I have a base to start from and can prioritise my workload. By prioritising I can take advantage of one of the biggest benefits of working for myself, I can schedule in a cheeky afternoon off for lunch with friends or head off early for a weekend break.

10. Be patient
Going from a regular income and having a manager advising on what needs to be done, to becoming solely responsible for generating your own clients, setting your own rates and having no set time to start and finish work can be scary. There have been times when I have thought I am not going to make any money at all but it all works out in the end. If you’re new to this way of working the one thing I would say is be patient, use the quite times to market yourself, research businesses you want to work with and to get out and meet people.

If any of you have any suggestions on things you do to make working from home for yourself work for you let me know.

You can find out more about Beck & Call PR visit www.beckandcallpr.co.uk or email sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk

Benefits of using a home worker

Since becoming a self-employed homeworker I have pitched for lots of work, some of which are advertised as home-based and others where they have been looking for an in-house employee.

As you would expect some of those looking for somebody office based can be sceptical about using somebody who is self-employed and works from home. Often worried that if they can’t see a person in the office then work isn’t happening, but there are numerous reasons why companies big and small would be wise to consider the self-employed home worker as an asset rather than a liability to their business and luckily for me many do.
If you are looking to recruit here are some reasons to consider the self-employed home worker.
Flexibility for you
With some self-employed people like me you may have the opportunity to pay in a way that suits you whether that be a monthly retainer, an hourly rate or by the project. This can work out cheaper for your company than paying a monthly salary when there may be times when work is lean. So you only pay for the work you need when you need it.
• Paid to get the work done
Rather than paying a salary you are paying to get the work done, so the person working for you may not be in the office and they may be doing work on a Friday night instead of during the 9-5 but they will be getting the work done to meet your deadlines as their livelihood depends on it. So there is less “I’m not getting paid so I’m not doing it” or “it has gone five so I’m going home”. So, whilst a self- employed home worker may have a more flexible lifestyle in that when things are quiet they might take a few hours off when the work needs to be done they are likely to be doing it until whatever time it takes to get the work completed.

• No time chatting to colleagues
Fortunately or unfortunately depending how you view it us home-workers don’t have any colleagues to chat to. Having been an employee myself it is amazing how much of the day people spend chatting to colleagues, sending emails and checking social media, all of which the employee is paying for. I’m not saying these things don’t happen with the self-employed but as mentioned before there can be more impetus from the self-employed to get their heads down and get the work done.

• Technology means it isn’t necessary
I make a point of visiting all my clients as and when they need it for some who are local this can be weekly or monthly and for those further away like my client in Devon we meet as and when needed but with all the technology we have at our disposal the mobile phone, email and of course Skype I can be contacted at any-time and am able to take part in meetings from wherever I am.

• Higher productivity
Studies have shown that people who are allowed to work from home are more productive due to less distractions, no stressful commute and their gratefulness at being allowed to work at home. This can only be a positive for your business.

• No hassle of Tax, N.I, holiday and sick pay
The final advantage is less paper work and less outgoings for you. If you use a self-employed worker they are responsible for sorting out their national insurance and tax. As for holidays and sick pay the self-employed person is responsible for these.
Using a self-employed homeworker may not work for some businesses but I would advise any business not to rule it out.

I run Beck and Call Public Relations, you can find out more at www.beckandcallpr.co.uk

What did you say you do?

What do you think I do?
What do you think I do?

A typical scenario for me is I meet somebody and the conversation turns to careers I get asked “What do you do?” I respond “I work in public relations” cue one of two responses:
1. A blank look and swiftly moving on
2. “Oh so you come up with adverts?”
Many people don’t understand what PR people actually do, which is understandable as it is a job where there is no typical day. To explain what it is I do here are a few examples of things that I have done recently.

Social media
Each week I manage the social media for three clients. This includes coming up with status updates, researching relevant content to be used on their chosen social media platforms this might be promoting events on Facebook, sharing relevant news related to their industries or managing Linkedin accounts. I also spend time analysing the stats to make campaigns more effective, what sort of updates are getting the most engagement? At what times are people most likely to see a post? Which updates are most likely to be shared or retweeted?

Blogging
I love writing blogs for clients and currently write for two each week. I come up with the topics, research them and ensure they are written in the voice of the business. This can mean going from writing about cleaning tips to telling people the beauty of holidaying in Devon.

Newsletters
Clients want to get their news and offers out to perspective customers but sometimes don’t have the time or know how, this is where I come in. I’m currently working on the monthly newsletter for a bar/restaurant I work for. I often have to work in advance so although it is only August I have my Christmas head on to make sure that customers know what fun they could have if they booked their Christmas party at this establishment.

Press releases
Lately I have been creating press releases on a variety of topics including an Arctic expedition, an author undertaking some crazy challenges and a charity event. When writing a release I first need to establish what audience the client wishes to target trade, consumer, specialist etc, what the call to action is and what the client wants the outcome to be. I then put it all together into what is (hopefully) an interesting story that will whet the journalists appetite to find out more. This leads me nicely on to what comes after the press release…..

Journalists
I spend much of my time finding the right journalist who will be interested in a client. A lot of what I do is about building relationships and getting the journalist to see my client as the first port of call should they need a comment on a topic related to their field. Journalists can be a PR’s best friend or worst enemy, sometimes they will really get on board with an idea and give more space to a piece of news than I thought, other times they can promise great coverage but if a big story comes in the story can be dropped like a hot potato.

Writing articles
This is different to press releases. Whereas press releases are there to tell the clients story to the journalist who may then wish to do a further interview, send out a photographer and often writer a longer piece. Article writing is putting the feature together for the publication, in their style on behalf of the client I am working for. In the past I have written features for a teen magazine as a 15 year old living with a disability, a thought leadership piece in the guise of chairperson of recruitment company and I am currently working on 1,000 words for a renovation publication on the behalf of an hotelier.

Media events
If you’ve got an event or an activity that you want the media to attend then I’m the person you need. A PR person will source the relevant media and journalist, send them details, invite them, create media packs with all your information in and attend the event to make sure you get to speak to the key people. My most recent press event was for a play that was opening in London, with only four days’ notice I managed to get 20 reviewers from local, national and theatre specific press to attend.

Pitching
Being self-employed means I have to spend much of my time pitching for new business. Pitching can vary some people just want me to produce a breakdown of what I can do along with costs, some want a full presentation and others want a formal interview, whatever the task I spend time researching the client to look at what the most effective way will be to reach their goals.

This is just a small amount of what working in PR means as well as organising events, finding celebrities to front campaigns, promoting my own business and networking. Hopefully having read this the next time somebody says they work in PR you’ll have a better idea of what this means.

If you need help with any of the services outlined above please get in touch at sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk or visit my website Beck & Call Public Relations

I’m the boss of me – Becoming self-employed

Self employment

When I launched Beck & Call PR in November 2013 I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what I would encounter, how to go about it and what challenges I would face.  All I did know was that after 14 years working in the PR departments of various organisations I wanted to take the skills I had gained and use them to help SME’s that may be didn’t need full time PR support or couldn’t justify a full-time salary but had great businesses that people needed to hear about.

So with some trepidation, a supportive husband and a handful of contacts from networking Beck and Call PR came to life.  Whilst I was fine with the setting up of bank accounts, registering with the HMRC etc there were a few things that I wish I had known.

Patience really is a virtue

When it comes to work some clients are really organised and will know in advance that they want help with PR for a project giving you time to plan and execute the work in good time.  Others decide just days before that they want help and it is all systems go and then there are those who get in touch, you discuss, put together your proposal, pitch if needs be only to discover that they either a. Are never going to give you a yes or no answer b. The vanish completely or c. Return saying they want to work with you six months later but the whole planning, pitching process needs to start all over again as the project has changed.

Sometimes you’ll feel rich and at others poor

I’m really hopeful that this will be a new business problem rather than an on-going one, cash flow.  Some months it seems like you’ve cracked it, your income for the month is great then the following month projects come to an end, work you’re waiting to start isn’t quite ready and your finances dip.

The same goes for work itself….

Feast or Famine

There have been periods where clients have been few and far between especially at the start, followed by periods where I am working all the hours I can to get projects completed.  What I would say is enjoy it, all of it.  When it’s a famine use the time to do more work on your own business, look for new clients and get out networking.  When it is a feast enjoy it to, you’re doing something you love and getting paid for it.

Some people won’t take your advice

I’d experienced this whilst working in companies but for some reason didn’t expect it when I was self employed, but alas it is so.  Some clients will employ you for your expertise and then choose not to take your advice.  The way I deal with this is to ensure that I explain why I think something won’t work, offer alternatives but ultimately it comes down to what the client wants which unfortunately doesn’t always mean they get as good a result as they could have done.

The work/life balance is worth it.

When I decided to work for myself I had all the usual worries about finances and finding clients but one of my main motivators was I wanted a greater work-life balance.  I was tired of having to travel miles each week, sick of having spent years in various office environments and having to wrangle to get time off to go to the doctors or dentist.  Having to cancel things with friends at the last minute because of work and the lack of flexibility.

Working for myself is hard, my brain is always on the go thinking about how I can improve things, get more work, manage workload but the plus side is I have time to go to the gym everyday, if the only appointment I can get for the dentist is at 11:45am then so be it.  If I want to go and have lunch with a friend and it looks like it will be a three hour lunch that’s fine or if I want to take my niece for her last swimming lesson I can.

Self-employment has given me a greater freedom than I could ever have imagined.  I have to be more organised, if I want to take half a day to do something fun I know that I am going to have to still get the same amount of work done in less time but that’s my choice.

I would say to anybody thinking of embarking on self-employment go for it.  The hours can be long, the team spirit non-existent (I work at home, alone) and the money not always great but it’s most definitely worth it.

 

To find out more about Beck and Call Public Relations visit my website Beck & Call PR