It’s five years since David Goddin Communications made its debut on the UK public relations stage, offering a range of PR and marketing communication consulting activities direct to clients and as a standby service for agencies and corporate marketing departments.
As with any business start-up, there have been highs and lows – but, thanks to good client support, the general trend has been positive and the outlook remains good. Business is fun – and I want to keep it that way.
The business came into being because I wanted to fulfill a dream of putting my name to an agency that could make a real difference for its clients. It’s made a huge difference for me, too, with many fresh opportunities: for example working for interesting clients in new sectors, expanding my range of communication tools and enjoying greater flexibility in work patterns.
Communication is a basic need for all businesses – mine included. My challenge as a consultant is to deliver a cost-effective blend of experience and creativity, so that clients large and small always get the best solution that I can offer.
Experience from previous career steps provides the backbone of my skill set, but with the proliferation of ‘new media’ – bringing exciting new communication techniques – I am now using words in ways that were scarcely on the agenda five years ago. I still regard the news release as the fundamental element of PR copywriting, but it can now be adapted for use in many different ways … from 140 characters upwards!
Consulting is not only about writing and communication technology: it also involves a great deal of listening and learning. This is because to make messages more effective, the PR consultant needs to balance what the client wants to say … and what the customers might want to hear. A good consultant will, of course, loyally represent the client at all times – and should also earn the position of trusted adviser.
My plan for the next five years of David Goddin Communications includes modest growth on the foundations already laid plus further exploration of new communication opportunities. in short, I simply want my business to be enjoyable – as much for clients as it is for me.
Despite all the great technology we have at our fingertips, it’s good to know that some businesses are still using the traditional, printed newsletter to communicate in their markets.
As a former print journalist I have a fondness for words and images on paper, and I believe the newsletter can – and should – have a place in the marketing mix for many years to come. However, I think that many valiant efforts to use this medium are prone to failure – the result of too few skills and poor advice.
When a local company’s four-pager hit the doormat recently I found myself wondering how many businesses are pumping money into print – but getting little in return.
In truth there is a brief golden moment when a reader picks up your newsletter and makes the choice between read and recycle.
So how does your newsletter shape up? What part of your print run goes for pulp with hardly a glance? Here are some pointers that should help to make your publication produce profits:
Know your purpose – Don’t just publish for the sake of it. Define your editorial policy to complement the role that your newsletter will play – for example: enhancing the corporate image and encouraging sales by showcasing market leadership, understanding of customer needs and successful applications of products or services. In reality, the goal is to get the reader to visit your shop (or website) … and buy!
Remember the reader – Think of your reader as a hard-working commuter coming home to a family, domestic responsibilities and a garden in need of attention. If he (or she) is going to pick up your newsletter from the hallstand and digest it intelligently, it must scream READ ME on every page. So it must be relevant, appealing … and must convey benefits to the reader.
Make it newsy – You don’t have to make every page look like a mini-clone of the popular press – the content and design possibilities are endless. But whatever the appearance, the content should clearly demonstrate editorial flair. What you need are magnetic headlines and gripping copy that draw the reader and retain interest … right down to your call to action.
Cut out the waffle – Beware of the MD’s ego-trip essays or the sales director’s lengthy ponderings on the state of the market. Rather channel their enthusiasm into thought leadership articles that make readers sit up and take note. And remember that since the arrival of 140-character communication, keeping it short is what readers increasingly expect.
Be visual – Grab the reader’s attention with stunning images and informative diagrams. You are competing with colour on TV, PCs, mobiles, tablets and supermarket shelves. So be bold and be bright … or your publications will certainly be heading straight for the bin.
Be informative – You want the reader eventually to make an informed buying decision. So help that process along by providing information in such a way that the reader immediately perceives a benefit from learning about you and what you offer.
Be clever – Today’s production and print processes give you the flexibility to create separate editions for different geographical areas or customer types – of from different divisions of the company. You can also load your newsletter as a pdf file on your website – giving a wider audience the ability to read it online or print it for themselves, if they wish. Don’t forget to use social media to encourage people to read your latest issue. And if you’ve a really good story on the front page, send it out as a press release or add it to the company blog.
Call in a pro – If you have the time and skills to put a newsletter together on your own, by all means do so. But it’s well worth calling in a writer/editor/designer package with the experience and skills to give you impartial advice on content and presentation. You want a professional product that adheres to traditional standards of journalism and printing, enhances your reputation … and boosts your bottom line.
A website is as essential in your marketing armoury as a distinctive logo and snappy business cards – but is your organisation reaping all the benefits of being on the internet?
Never before in the history of commerce have businesses enjoyed such opportunities to broadcast tailored corporate messages cheaply, instantly, to wide or targeted audiences and without fear of editorial intervention. But many organisations still don’t make full use of the internet to spread their messages: as a result they are not being heard.
One of the reasons the internet and its spinoffs – email and social media – are so powerful is because the content that reaches the reader is precisely what the sender intended. This is also true of printed newsletters, brochures and direct mail – but the internet has immediacy.
In contrast, the traditional press release was often edited and rewritten by journalists keen to add their own touch – sometimes with dire consequences for the original corporate message. Not that all editing was bad – some press releases were (and still are) in need of extensive improvement.
Companies now have virtual carte blanche online to say anything (within the law and bounds of common decency, of course). Some have in-house resources to craft creative content. Others rely on outsourced skills (like mine) to produce copy that ticks all the boxes. Either way, good content is essential.
As citizens of the internet, we are all looking for a massive return on our investment in a domain name and content. To achieve that ROI we have to get the right people to visit our sites and then to be sufficiently impressed to take action.
The first step is to ensure we have the right content. This means providing information that people will need in order to make a ‘buy’ decision. People respond more readily if they are told what they want to hear, rather than what we want to tell them. But too many companies focus on how good they are rather than what they can do for the customer. In short, promote the benefits not the features.
Content needs to be refreshed frequently to keep the search engines interested and to give customers a reason for returning to the site over and over again. Just think of the big e-commerce sites: people keep looking at them to see what’s new.
The second step is to attract people to the site: unless you are extremely well known or on the first Google page you’re unlikely to get random hits that mature into valuable customers. This is where social media marketing plays a vital role, affording the opportunity to publish a brief ‘teaser’ with an all-important link to the real article. And if your posts are clever enough, others will ‘like’ or ‘share’ them to the wider audience of their own connections.
Now, please share this article and have a look round my website!
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 17 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.