Monthly Archives: May 2008

PR in Knutsford, Cheshire and Manchester

I’m approached fairly regularly by businesses in Knutsford and elsewhere in Cheshire and Manchester (Buzzwords is based in Knutsford!) who want to use PR to raise their profile.  In many cases, what they mean is ‘marketing services’ – and not PR, which has become an umbrella term for things like advertising,  direct mail and so on. 

That’s fine, of course.  Most PR practitioners handle a wide range of services other than pure public relations – or they ‘know a man who can’.  Exploiting local PR opportunities is one of the most cost-effective forms of publicity there is, so it makes sense to be constantly on the lookout for a juicy PR story. 

Companies with lots of employees have a ready-made source of human-interest stories which will very likely interest the local media.  Businesses with unusual new products, or directors who’ve been winning business or doing other unspeakable things in the far flung corners of the globe… all this makes for good copy. 

No business is without a PR story.  It may sometimes call for a bit more ‘drilling down’ into what’s going on with the company, its people, products and services.  Stories with a ‘local politics’ bias could ring a few bells – wrangling with the local council, for example, or inviting the local MP to do the honours at a special product launch or company anniversary.

Sometimes, of course, stories can be ‘created’ around things like sponsorship deals or charity events.  Local PR has many dimensions.  Whether you’re based in Knutsford, Cheshire or Manchester, it’s simply a question of sitting down and thinking through what opportunities are under your nose.

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PR success for Manchester and Cheshire businesses

The PR scene in Manchester and Cheshire is highly competitive. 

PR agencies trying to secure for their clients those vital column inches or search engine rankings will be constantly trawling established and emerging media for ‘windows of opportunity’.  More than that, they’ll be having joined-up brainstorms to create newsworthy stories that will knock the competition ‘off the front page’!

Of course, this is all good news for the media.  One only has to look at the success of publications such as the Manchester Evening News, Cheshire Life and so on to gauge the vibrancy of the social and business scene.  No doubt their advertising departments flourish on the back of it.

As far as PR goes, it means that a certain level of strategic planning has to be involved.  In particular, for a PR agency’s campaign to succeed, it will need the active involvement of a senior person in the client company.  Without their strategic direction – and someone in authority to push through ‘on-message’ publicity – the PR agency’s job is impossible.

Of course, this isn’t applicable solely to local PR, but the intensity and sensitivities of local market conditions can play a major part in a story’s usability.  On the other hand, the opportunities for local PR to offset negative perceptions of a company’s activities or ‘massage’ local public opinion can be priceless.

The implications and influence of local PR go right to the heart of what public relations is all about, namely, managing corporate reputation.  Corporate social responsibility starts with a local dimension which may seem a million miles away from a company’s need to make profits.  No business exists in a vacuum, however, and every bit of information or news that leaves a company must be considered alongside the impact it will have on the local community, the workforce, suppliers and customers. 

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Local PR for clients in Manchester and Cheshire

Local PR is a strange beast.  And I would guess the media in Cheshire and Manchester are no different from elsewhere in the UK.  Trying to win coverage in the local press (radio or TV) using traditional media relations methods requires a little more creativity than average. 

No point sending an editor a descriptive piece about your client’s range of products or services.  You’ll need real ‘human interest’ stories… you know the sort of thing: employee raises £X million for charity; ‘green’ credentials of X company demonstrated in marathon tree-planting exercise; employees decide to marry after 40 years working together in the factory etc etc. 

The problem is, of course, that these stories don’t come along every day of the week.  So that’s where the PR man’s black art of inventing hooks and angles comes in handy.  With certain clients, however, this can be like getting the proverbial blood from a stone.  A lot of this stems from a reluctance to air one’s dirty linen in public.  Will it make us look stupid /unprofessional/ etc the client asks???  What’s the point of all this anyway, they may say? 

The answer is that local PR stories must be part of a company’s wider PR strategy.  To give an example: sponsoring a Porsche driver who’s racing at a local circuit – especially if the driver happens to work for your company – would fit neatly with an outfit  that wanted to project a young, progressive and (possibly) technically-advanced image.   

In many ways, local PR is more challenging than straightforward media relations where the trade press will publish almost anything providing it’s relevant to that sector or industry.  Likewise with online PR publishers – except online coverage also comes with valuable links back to your website! 

Of course, local PR clients always ask the same question when you first start talking turkey: do you have good connections with local editors?   It may help to a small extent but, in general, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.   In other words, if the story is weak, there’s no point souring a perfectly good working relationship.

Mike Beeson has added a new page on local PR to the ‘PR & media relations’ page of Buzzwords’ website.

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